We've had lots of weather lately, haven't we? That's my favourite ice breaker. But seriously, folks, it was friggin' hot for a couple of days.
I hate hot, and I hate humid even more. I can't eat when it gets that way. I can't sleep. I'm a mess.
Many of us are convinced that what's doing in the atmosphere has an effect on our health and well-being beyond the obvious, from people like me who waste away in the heat to Grandma and her throbbin' toe that tells ya when a storm is a comin'.
Many a chronic pain sufferer claims that air pressure and humidity affect how they're feeling even though the scientific data is spotty.
One study discovered that it's actually changes in the weather and not a specific kind of weather that causes discomfort. The body, it seems, adjusts to particular temperatures and moisture levels, and any shift forces tissues to readjust, triggering the nerves that signal pain. All this means that a cold spell in Florida may hurt as much as a change of clime in T.O., so don't assume you're a jet-ride from relief.
Then there's the suggestion that meteorology can explain the particular effects on the fetus that lead to larger risks for mental illness.
What the experts say
"Research suggests that adverse environmental factors during gestation or around the time of birth may disrupt normal brain development, and that may increase a child's chances of developing a mental illness. Temperature extremes can be stressful and weaken the immune system. Research also indicates that vitamin D deficiency can be a problem, and we get most of ours from sunlight. It's been found that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be born at certain times of the year, specifically winter and early spring. The risk is still small, and the take-home lesson should be for expectant mothers in general to be given optimal care."
DENNIS KINNEY , associate professor of psychology, Harvard Medical School, Boston
"Hot weather is more yang, cold wea-ther more yin. One of the most important things to do with changing weather is to eat differently. Meat is hot, grains are neutral and fruits and vege-tables are cold. Eat more meat in colder weather, and vegetables and fruit in the warmer weather. In hot, humid weather you need spicy food to unclog dampness that can cause the digestive system or joints not to work well. You can get headaches, cloudy thinking, urination problems and your menstrual cycle or bowel movements can get screwed up. There are no vegetarian cultures in the far north, but you can be a vegetarian in India, no problem.'
KALEB MONTGOMERY , Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto
"Our study tried to show whether people who think weather affects their migraines are accurate. We found that they are not completely accurate. Approximately 65 per cent said they were affected and 51 per cent were correct. What's affecting them varies in different patients. You can't say that everyone is going to get a migraine when it's hot and humid. People exposed to very low temperatures had worse migraines than those exposed to high temperatures, which surprised us. Another factor was change from hot to cold, cold to hot or changes in barometer from a clear, beautiful day to a bad day. [Some people were influenced by] absolute barometric pressure on days when the barometer was really low or even when it was really high. If you can determine the factor that bothers you, you can prepare.
ALAN RAPOPORT , director, New England Center for Headache, professor of neurology, Columbia University, New York City
"We gave questionnaires to hundreds of chronic pain patients in several different locations, and most said weather changes affected them. I was surprised at how little research has been done on the subject, but that may be because people feel nothing can be done about it. The body consists of nerves, tendons, bones and a whole bunch of water. We know some of these tendons move with damp, moist conditions, similar to what leather does in terms of moisture in the air. Any stretching or change in musculature may trigger pain. Cold has an effect on pain. People with arthritis report high incidences of weather-affected pain, as do those with back surgeries or other kinds of nerve damage. These reactions are not limited to humans. In some places people know it's going to rain when cockroaches start flying or cows lie down."
ROBERT JAMISON , associate professor in anesthesia and psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
"The surprising thing is that more people die of heat in Toronto than in Phoenix, Arizona. The structures in Phoenix where poor people live are much more amenable to the heat. The poor live in places with shiny roofs, made of frame stucco. In Toronto, Chicago and New York, they live in red brick houses with black tar roofs that absorb heat. People there aren't used to extreme heat waves. Heat causes respiratory failure, cardiac arrest or stroke, but these are never classified as heat-related. You don't know why the person got a heart attack, but they happen much more frequently during heat waves."
LARRY KALKSTEIN , senior research fellow, University of Delaware, Centre of Climatic Research, Florida