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
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
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.