Biometeorologist: "The weather alone is not to blame if I get a headache"
- Constant rain dampens the mood, sunshine makes you cheerful: that’s obvious – but is it really due to the weather if some people have severe headaches or are always tired??
- According to biometeorologist Andreas Matzarakis of the German Weather Service, a distinction is made between weather-responsive, weather-sensitive and weather-sensitive people.
- Weather-sensitive people sense certain changes in the air that are harbingers of a weather change.
Mr. Matzarakis, what is your favorite weather?
It depends on the situation. A temperature of 18, 19 degrees is optimal for me to work. When I’m outside and moving around, I love weather that’s around 20, 23 degrees. Actually, any weather is ideal for me, unless it’s very cold, very hot or has strong winds.
Some people love freezing cold, others only really blossom in the heat.
Yes. Temperature perception varies greatly from person to person. In my biometeorology lectures, I always ask my students: How do you currently feel about the temperature in this room?? The range is enormous. The figures range between 17 and 25 degrees. That is eight degrees. Individuality and preferences play a big role here.
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How do such large deviations occur?
This has to do with weight, height and state of health and also whether someone is trained or untrained. There are also differences between men and women: women perceive the temperature as cooler because they give off more heat. They also have fewer sweat glands than men and are therefore worse off in the heat.
"We are all weather responsive"
Is there a temperature that is optimal for most people??
This is the range between 18, 19 and 25 degrees. Then the thermoregulatory system of the human being is not challenged. This can vary according to individual needs, habits and health status. But it is best for health when it is slightly cool. You know that feeling when you go outside and it’s pleasant, but a little nippy and you feel a bit of a bite from the wind. These are actually the best conditions for health, because the thermoregulation gets a bit irritated and you exercise your body. One speaks of the cold stimulus.
Therefore, for example, the North Sea climate is considered healing?
Correct. But it’s not just the air temperature that plays a role here, but other factors, such as the fact that many sea salts are dissolved in the air. That is healthy.
Whether it’s cold or warm, people like to complain about the weather. Do weather conditions really have such a big influence on our health??
It has to be said: The weather alone is not to blame if I get a headache. But it can contribute to people developing complaints. We are all weather-responsive, that is, we react to the weather through our senses: we notice if it is cold outside and adjust accordingly. And we are happy about nice weather. However, every change in the atmosphere leads to the need to re-adjust. If I am burdened by my health condition, then my adaptability is limited. So if I’m stressed, for example, I may be more bothered by the weather. In addition, chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, can affect adaptability.
There are three groups: Weather Reactive, Weather Sensitive and Weather Sensitive
How many people have problems, so they are sensitive to the weather?
When surveyed, 50 percent of people say: Yes, the weather has an impact on me. The most common symptoms cited were headaches, fatigue, exhaustion, joint pain and sleep disturbances. But whether there really is a negative influence or it is just imagination cannot be determined in such surveys. Certainly the weather is not to blame for everything.
Rheumatics in particular seem to be troubled by the weather.
In addition to weather reactive and weather sensitive people, we distinguish a third group: weather sensitive people. That is about 15 to 20 percent of the people. You have a chronic illness, such as rheumatism, or a longer history of illness and cannot adapt as quickly to changes in the weather. As a result, there is pain or other discomfort. This is often also associated with a certain degree of sensitivity. You may know this from the aunt who says: "Oh, my knee hurts again today! The weather changes." There are certain changes in the air, which are harbingers of a weather change.
Similar to a barometer that shows changes in air pressure?
Accurate. The background to this are changes in the atmosphere, which can place a greater burden on the autonomic nervous system or also irritate it.
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Which weather conditions have a particularly unfavorable effect?
These include low pressure areas, warm and cold fronts, the change from cold to warm or from warm to cold, and foehns. When there is a foehn, there is a certain amount of unrest, as with low-pressure areas. These are low-frequency fluctuations in air pressure, which are in the range of seconds and which we can only measure with special equipment. And here’s what’s likely to irritate some people’s bodies.
Will the stresses increase because of climate change?
In any case, heat will be more and more an issue. This results in additional stress on the human body. In addition, in the future pollen is likely to fly longer and more intense, perhaps there are new types of pollen. This is also a strain on the body. But we have better information and warning systems and also an improved healthcare system. When it comes to climate change, you have to be pretty careful. It is certainly an additional burden, but the extent is not known.
Is there anything you can do as a weather-sensitive person to protect yourself from critical weather conditions?
Much. For healthy and weather-sensitive people, the same tips apply: namely, harden the body, exercise, plenty of fresh air, Kneipp baths, alternating showers, a healthy diet. But you can only do this in advance. If you have a headache, you won’t want to go for a walk for three hours. Weather-sensitive people need medical supervision.
Does it make sense to adjust the behavior of the weather forecast?
That is a good idea. Getting informed is the best thing you can do. There are special forecasts for people who are sensitive to the weather, including a health weather app. How to better prepare and protect yourself.
How the weather affects the heart and circulation
Cold: At low temperatures, the blood vessels contract, so that the blood pressure can rise. It also improves blood flow to the organs to prevent hypothermia. This makes the kidney work harder and you have to urinate more often. As a result of fluid loss, blood becomes more viscous, making it easier for congestion and clotting to occur. Patients who already suffer from high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases are particularly at risk for complications.
Heat: It causes the blood vessels to dilate. As a result, blood pressure often drops, which can lead to fatigue, dizziness and headaches. Extreme heat can also have the opposite effect: it can be an added stressor for people with high blood pressure, driving blood pressure even higher. Aside from that, blood becomes more viscous due to fluid loss, increasing the risk of thrombosis and heart attack.