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January 22nd, 2009
10:35 AM ET

Can weather affect our health?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Erin, Liverpool, New York

"It seems that every time I end up experiencing a bad sinus headache, it's a result of the cold weather. Is there any relationship between the weather and our health?"

Answer:

Being outside "in the cold" doesn't give you a cold, but the weather can play a role in your health.

Many studies show headaches can be trigger from high temperatures, humidity and barometric pressure. Even air pressure from outdoor activities - scuba diving or climbing in high altitudes - can trigger sinus headaches.

So, what to do about it, right? We obviously can’t change the weather forecast but you may be able to stay a step ahead of the symptoms. Start keeping track of when your sinus headaches occur and the temperature level outside. For some, the cold weather may trigger it, for others, it may be a hot and humid day. Once you figure it out you’ll be able to modify your daily activities or take medication in advance.

Weather can also have an impact on your heart and lungs. In fact, smog and polluted air can cause inflammation of the lungs. As a result, your blood gets slicker and thicker and may cause a heart attack or stroke.

People who exercise outside have to be particularly careful. Take running for example. Runners take in more than 100 liters of air a minute, compare that with an average of 6 liters a minute for a sedentary person. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, California, are among the most polluted cities in the U.S. On a quest for the cleanest air? Visit Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both these cities ranked the best in American Lung Associations 2008 “State of the Air” report. Click here  to see where your city ranks.

The people most at risk for weather-related health problems are the elderly, children, and anyone with a history of heart disease or asthma. Bottom line: If weather is causing you a headache or something more serious, it’s important to identify what’s triggering your symptoms and talk to your doctor about it.


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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Wanda Edwards

    I have arthritis all over. I have bursitis in both hips, Tendenitis in both hands due to data entry, I just found out I have arthritis in my spine, I cannot bend over like I used to. This year has been the first time in about six years that it has not been that bad. A co-worker gave me a high powered magnet from a junk computer monitor that I put on my back or hip with tape and leave on all day and it seems to work. I also take a natural fish oil pill every evening. I still have the pain but not as bad. When April comes, my pain seem to subside a little. July, I feel good. October, the pain starts all over again.
    Dr Gupta, I think the weather has a lot to do with my pain.

    Wanda of Columbus, Ohio

    February 5, 2009 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Emilia Palmer

    I always like Sunny weather and disliked gloomy rainy weather.-:"

    May 24, 2010 at 03:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sydney Collins

    the weather these days is hotter than the previous decades, i guess it is the effect of global warming";,

    August 2, 2010 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Brandon Carter

    i just wish that there is always sunny weather because i love the sun.*;

    September 29, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Arthritis Remedy 

    the weather these days are not very sunny, i wish that it is sunny everyday~*`

    October 14, 2010 at 05:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Wall Heater :

    the weather will always be cold now because the winter months are coming~'"

    October 25, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.