One day you’re basking in crisp, frosty sunshine, the next you’re fighting through sleet and hail.
But the weather can affect more than just your mood – or your wardrobe – according to data showing 72 percent of us suffer some degree of joint discomfort because of the weather.
Sadly it doesn’t stop with your joints and can trigger everything from migraines and asthma to even heart attacks.
Keep an eye on these forecasts to keep in good health…
The forecast: High winds
Your weather worries: Stress and migraines
When it’s blowing a gale outside, the body can react as if it is under attack and produce so-called fight or flight reflexes, such as raised heart rate and heightened emotions.
Meanwhile, windy conditions can trigger a migraine.
One reason is the effect on the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that monitors the body’s functions; it can lead to constriction or swelling of the blood vessels in the head which can cause the pain associated with migraine.
Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada looked at the links between migraine sufferers having an attack and the occurrence of Canadian ‘Chinook’ winds – warm westerly winds specific to Alberta, Canada, which have a definite onset time and are an indicator of profound weather change.
Of 75 patients studied, 32 were more likely to have migraines during Chinook weather conditions than on days without them.
The forecast: Torrential rain
Your weather worries: Weight gain, E.coli and sore joints
A team from Aberdeen University found miserable, wet weather made it harder for dieters to shed weight.
They found those who were overweight had lower levels of vitamin D – which is created when the body is exposed to sunlight.
The amount of vitamin D in the blood influences the functioning of a hormone called leptin, which tells the brain when the stomach is full.
The obese produced a tenth less vitamin D than those of average weight.
And crops might well welcome the rain, but those living in rural areas won’t as it raises the risk of catching E.coli.
Farmers’ slurry contains E.coli O157 bacteria from cattle muck; heavy rain can wash the slurry into streams and form puddles; the bacteria can then be found in mud stuck to boots, or spread by pets.
War vets and anyone carrying significant scars won’t be relishing the rain either.
When outside pressure drops, it may cause normal tissue to expand and contract.
But because scar tissue isn’t elastic, but rather dense and rigid, it’s unable to adapt to the change in pressure, resulting in a pulling sensation that may lead to an aching pain.
And as the old wives claim, damp weather does seem to make joint pain and osteoarthritis worse.
While there is no conclusive evidence to explain this, it may be due to pressure receptors (baroreceptors) in the joint sensing the drop in atmospheric pressure when the weather changes from dry to rainy.
The level of fluid in the joint then fluctuates in response to these changes, which might trigger pain in the nerves.
The forecast: Thunderstorms
Your weather worries: Headaches, asthma
The change in atmospheric pressure just before a thunderstorm often triggers headaches.
When the pressure drops, brain and nerve cells start interacting differently, causing head pain.
Many asthmatics also find their condition worsens if there’s a thunderstorm when pollen counts are high.
The gusty weather that precedes a storm can whisk up the pollen.
Meanwhile, the electrical charge generated by the storm can affect how long the pollen is then retained in the lungs, potentially bringing on an attack.
In June 2005, a six-fold rise in the number of emergency admissions for asthma in Britain was reported over one weekend as the result of thunderstorms.
“Thunderstorms move at tremendous speed and changes in air temperature cause cold air to sink, replacing warm air at ground level,” says Shuaib Nasser, a consultant in allergy and asthma at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“Unfortunately, this causes allergens such as pollen to be lifted off the ground, into the air and up to a level at which they can be inhaled into the lungs.”
The forecast: Scorchio!
Your weather worry: The blues
Hotter weather increases the risk of suicide, according to the British Institute of Psychiatry.
Researchers looked at 50,000 suicide cases in England and Wales over 10 years, and found a 3.8% increase in suicide rates for every 1C rise in average temperature above 18C.
Suicides often take place when people are slightly drunk and they are more likely to be so when the weather is hot, suggests consultant psychiatrist Dr Jan Wise.
The forecast: Brass monkeys
Your weather worry: Heart attacks, strokes, colds and flu
An estimated 20,000 people die each year in the UK as a result of strokes and heart attacks linked to a dramatic drop in temperature – it’s believed cold temperatures cause the arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow and reducing oxygen supply to the heart.
Cold weather also makes the heart work harder because more oxygen is needed to maintain body heat.
This could lead to a heart attack in vulnerable people such as the elderly.
German researchers also discovered that just five consecutive days of colder than average weather led to increased blood levels of two blood chemicals that can cause inflammation in the vascular system.
Stroke is also more likely to happen, according to a report by John Moore’s University, Liverpool, because blood thickens in cold weather, increasing the risk of coronary and cerebral thrombosis.
And we get colds more in the winter because the cooling of the nose causes a slowdown of the infection-fighting cells in it, according to research from The Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University.
Cold also slows down the tiny hairs which normally sweep away viruses in mucus, it says.
Scientists at the US National Institute of Health believe that flu viruses tend to strike in cold weather, because during low temperatures a hard rubbery coating forms around the virus, giving it the protection it needs to pass from person to person.
This coating melts in the higher temperatures of the respiratory tract, allowing the virus to infect cells.
The forecast: High humidity/sticky
Your weather worries: Ear infections and gout
Outer ear infection – or otitis – becomes more common when humidity is high, as the ear canal is more likely to get damp.
This creates the perfect warm and moist environment for bacteria to flourish.
Otitis is an inflammation of the skin lining the ear canal and can cause itching and discharge. Research at Nahdha Hospital in Oman found that people living in areas with high humidity were twice as likely to have problems with ear wax because of these bacteria.
Attacks of gout are more frequent on days of high humidity, possibly because of the effects of dehydration, a Boston University study found.
The forecast: Not a cloud in the sky
Your weather worries: Skin aging and cancer
While we should all know by now the dangers of sitting in the sun without any UV protection, a burst of rays can actually help protect against other cancers.
A study by the Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo examined what happened to people diagnosed with cancer, and found that the risk of dying within three years of diagnosis with prostate, breast, colon or lung cancer, or with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was up to 50 per cent lower for those diagnosed during summer and autumn compared with winter.
One explanation could be that vitamin D can help stop the growth of tumours.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission