10 Surprising Ways Weather Affects Your Health (and How to Stay Safe)

  1. Extreme Heat and Dehydration Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As your body works harder to cool itself down, you lose fluids through sweating which can result in dehydration if those fluids are not replaced. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and dark urine. To prevent dehydration in hot weather:
  • Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids, especially if you’re active outdoors
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or air conditioning
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day
  1. Cold Temperatures and Heart Health Cold weather can be hard on your heart. When temperatures drop, your blood vessels constrict to conserve heat, which increases blood pressure. This extra strain on the cardiovascular system may trigger a heart attack, especially in people with pre-existing heart disease. To protect your heart in the cold:
  • Bundle up in warm layers before going outside
  • Avoid sudden exertion, like shoveling snow, without warming up first
  • Talk to your doctor about safe activity levels if you have a heart condition
  • Know the warning signs of a heart attack and seek emergency care if needed
  1. Thunderstorms and Asthma Attacks Changes in humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure during a thunderstorm can cause asthma attacks in some people. Experts believe this “thunderstorm asthma” occurs when strong winds disperse high concentrations of pollen and mold spores in the air. Breathing in these irritants inflames the airways and makes it difficult to breathe. If you have asthma:
  • Stay indoors with the windows closed during a thunderstorm
  • Use your preventive medications as prescribed
  • Keep your rescue inhaler with you at all times
  • Seek medical help if your symptoms worsen or don’t improve with treatment
  1. Rainy Days and Joint Pain Many people with arthritis report increased joint pain and stiffness when it rains. One theory is that a drop in barometric pressure causes the tissues around the joints to swell and press on nerves. While there’s no surefire way to prevent weather-related joint pain, these strategies may help:
  • Stay warm and dry
  • Use heat therapy to relax muscles and ease stiffness
  • Try gentle range-of-motion exercises to keep joints flexible
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed
  • Talk to your doctor about adjusting your medication regimen
  1. Dry Air and Respiratory Infections
    Cold, dry air can irritate the respiratory tract and make you more susceptible to infections like the common cold and flu. Low humidity dries out the protective mucous membranes in your nose and throat, making it easier for viruses to invade.
    To combat dry air:
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to your home or office
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Practice good hand hygiene to avoid picking up germs
  • Get your annual flu vaccine
  • See your doctor if you develop severe symptoms
  1. Sunny Days and Skin Cancer Risk While some sun exposure is necessary for vitamin D production, too much UV radiation can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. This risk is highest during the summer months when the sun’s rays are most intense. To protect your skin:
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day
  • Wear protective clothing, like long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Seek shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Check your skin regularly for new or changing moles
  • See a dermatologist for an annual skin exam
  1. Extreme Weather and Mental Health Severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods can take a toll on mental health. The stress of dealing with property damage, displacement, and financial losses can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you’re struggling after a natural disaster:
  • Reach out to loved ones for support
  • Stick to a routine as much as possible
  • Engage in healthy coping mechanisms like exercise and journaling
  • Seek professional help if your symptoms are severe or persistent
  • Call a crisis hotline if you’re having thoughts of self-harm
  1. Air Pollution and Cognitive Function Exposure to air pollution has been linked to a decline in cognitive function, particularly in older adults. Fine particulate matter can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. Over time, this may contribute to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. To reduce your exposure to air pollution:
  • Check the air quality index before going outside
  • Limit outdoor activities on high pollution days
  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter indoors
  • Support policies that reduce emissions from vehicles and industry
  • Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your cognitive health
  1. Seasonal Allergies and Quality of Life For many people, the arrival of spring means the start of allergy season. Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds can trigger symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes. While not usually life-threatening, allergies can significantly impact quality of life and lead to missed work or school days.
    To manage seasonal allergies:
  • Keep windows and doors closed to keep pollen out
  • Shower and change clothes after being outdoors
  • Use an over-the-counter antihistamine or nasal spray as needed
  • Consider immunotherapy (allergy shots) for long-term relief
  • See an allergist for personalized treatment recommendations
  1. Climate Change and Global Health The effects of climate change on human health are far-reaching and complex. Rising temperatures, more frequent natural disasters, and changes in disease patterns pose serious risks to public health. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those with chronic illnesses, are particularly at risk. To mitigate the health impacts of climate change:
  • Support policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prepare for extreme weather events with an emergency plan and supply kit
  • Stay informed about local health risks and advisories
  • Take steps to reduce your own carbon footprint
  • Advocate for equitable access to healthcare and resources