Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Can Feel it in My Bones
By A. Ross

When an old aunt of mine used to say, "It's going to rain, tomorrow, I can feel it in my bones," we children were convulsed with laughter. We weren't even polite enough to hide the chuckles, so she elaborated in all seriousness that she suffered from rheumatism and was always in more pain when it rained. As this was England, and it rained more often than not, her explanation was received with some skepticism.

The famous Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived at the time of the second Beis Hamikdosh and who discovered aspirin, by the way, was the first to see some connection between the weather and our health. Evidence dating back some 2,300 years makes a direct link between illness and drastic changes in temperature. Since then, throughout the ages, evidence has been anecdotal rather than factual. Claims that symptoms get worse in certain weathers are frequently received with incredulity, even by doctors.

A group of American neurologists studied 3,289 stroke victims over a period of fourteen years. They documented the temperature, whether there was rain or sunshine, humidity and even the force of the wind, on the day the patient had the stroke, and five days previous to it. They were surprised to find that unlike popular belief, strokes were less likely to occur on very hot days, and even several days after the temperature dropped. They have no proof, but can only guess that as veins expand when the temperature is really high, blood clots, which are a cause of the stroke, are then less likely to block arteries.

Although as said, there is little factual evidence that illnesses are aggravated or relieved by changes in the weather, there seems to be a definite connection. The El Nino, the warm ocean current off the coast of Peru, which occurs about once in ten years, not only disrupts the weather in many parts of the world, but brings a rise in disease in its wake. The El Nino of 1982/3 which was thought to be the worst of its kind in the twentieth century, caused a marked increase in malaria, yellow fever and sleeping sickness. Physicians surmised that the tsetse fly and other bacteria- carrying insects breed more readily in those weather conditions.

Winter depression is known as a clinical illness, and is not just a bad mood. It occurs when the skies are constantly overcast and gets worse when heavy rain and winds last for days at a time. The symptoms are fatigue, lack of appetite or an excess of it, a craving for carbohydrates, weight gain, lack of concentration and general depression. The appearance of the sun dispels this illness miraculously.

Unfortunately, one man's meat is another man's poison. The fresh spring sunshine brings a rise in the pollen count and those unfortunates who suffer from hay fever, endure torment. Another change in temperature, and asthma sufferers are badly hit. Really cold weather, even if the sun is shining, is hard on those who suffer from any inclination of lung problems. Croup in young children is also more common in the autumn.

Some migraine sufferers claim that uncertain weather brings on an attack. This has never been validated, yet the fact remains that doctors get more calls about migraine when the weather is changeable. People claim that they feel pain in old scars when the barometer drops, even if they had their operation years before! Likewise, any inflamed joints are more painful in certain weather conditions. One theory is that one learns to live with certain aches and pains but that they are aggravated by seasonal changes in temperature.

There is a theory that infants born during the winter are more prone to Crohn's disease as adults. It is only a theory, for after all, millions of babies born in the winter are never exposed to that particular virus and do not contract the disease.

Meniere's disease is some imbalance in the fluids of the ear. Patients suffer from giddiness, lack of balance, tinnitus, violent headaches and even vomiting. The symptoms are much worse in heat and humidity and patients claim emphatically that they know when it is going to rain, as they begin to feel better then. So if you can forecast an upcoming storm at least as accurately as the meteorological office, and if you know for certain when it is going to rain, you are in good company. Thousands of people are sure that their health is affected by the weather.

The short-term weather forecast is far more accurate nowadays than it used to be. However, the long range forecast, anything more than two weeks, is often wide off the mark. After all, Hashem is completely in charge of the weather! Nevertheless, there are meteorologists in some countries who send a daily bulletin to the hospitals, warning them of weather conditions which cause asthma attacks, for instance, and the hospitals prepare extra beds in specific wards.

When the old lady claimed that she felt the rain in her bones, she was telling the truth.


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