The Scorching Sun & Wicked Winters!

Today I am going to be writing this blog based on the weather. It has been inspired by the recent weather we have had in the UK. It has been the hottest summer I can remember in my lifetime and it has been thoroughly enjoyable and very different to the rainy days we’re so used to.

In the UK, most of the weather we have isn’t very good. It’s usually cold with a lot of rainier days than sunny. When we do have sunshine, we like to make the most of it by relaxing in the garden sun bathing, going to a pub to have a drink; socialise in a beer garden or just to get out & do things with the family such as visit the zoo etc. Obviously, this is all down to self-preference as we’re all different.

However, the weather can affect our health in many ways. The main reason I am writing this blog is to highlight the effects that different types of weather can have upon one’s health and what we can do to make sure we are taking the relevant precautions to look after ourselves during certain types of weather.

We have different types of weather in the UK ranging from sunshine, rain, cloudy, snow to storms as you may already know. For example, depending if it is raining or not, this could change the plans we had for a certain day. If you planned to take your family out for the day or even planned to walk your dog, the rain may put you off from doing this. On the other hand, if the sun was shining, you’re more likely to complete the above tasks, as the sun will make it more enjoyable and you’ll stay dry! I will now talk in more detail about some of the effects the weather can have on our health.

Sunshine:

Sunshine can have both positive and negative effects on our body, and here are just some of them:

Enhancement of our moods – The sun can be seen as a free mood enhancer! Days that are full of sunshine make people feel better and gives them more energy. It also increases the level of serotonin in the brain which can be associated with improving our mood. Unsurprisingly serotonin levels are at their highest during the summer.

Natural Treatment for Seasonal Depression – Seasonal depression is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. In certain people, the lack of sunlight in the winter can trigger depression. Symptoms of this can include bad moods, difficulty making and keeping friends, over eating, tiredness and sleeping too much. Seasonal Affective Disorder is rare in the warmer months of the year.

Relieving Stress – Everyone will experience stress at some point in their life to some degree. Various factors can cause stress such as work, family and health issues. Stress can be relieved in many ways such as exercising, engaging in relaxing hobbies, sports, walking the dog or just getting out of the house to get some fresh air and some sun exposure.

Improvement of Sleep – Sunlight exposure impacts how much melatonin your brain produce’s and melatonin is what tells your brain when it is time to sleep. When it gets dark, you start producing melatonin, so you are ready to sleep in about two hours. With more sunlight in the summer, you are likely to feel more awake. Modern technology such as TV’s, lights, phones and computer screens allows us to change our light exposure artificially.

Receiving Natural Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a vitamin involved in maintaining healthy bone strength. One way you can get this is exposure to the ultraviolet light from sunlight. However, you don’t need much time in the sun to reap the benefits. It is recommended that only 15 minutes in the sunshine gives you all the vitamin D you need.

Damage to the Eyes – Long-term, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun can damage the retina, which is the back of the eye, where the rods and cones make visual images, which are then sent to the visual centres in the brain. Damage from exposure to sunlight can also cause the development of cloudy bumps along the edge of the cornea, which can then grow over the cornea and prevent clear vision. UV light is also a factor in the development of cataracts.

Heat Exhaustion – According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. People working in a hot environment are at risk of heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Decreased urine output

Heat Stroke – If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and can be life-threatening. According to the CDC, heat stroke causes the body’s temperature to rise quickly and can reach up to 106 degree Fahrenheit within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention because if it is left untreated, it can cause death or permanent disability. If you notice heat stroke, call 911 immediately.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures

 

Sun Burn – Sunburn is widely recognized as one of the most common negative effects of too much sun exposure. The majority of symptoms of sunburn do not usually appear until about four or five hours after the sun exposure occurs. Ultraviolet light is the cause of sunburn, which may come from the sun or from tanning beds. 

General symptoms of sunburn include:

  • Redness
  • Pain/tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, fever, chills or headaches

If you notice a sunburn fever, it’s time to seek attention from a medical professional. Besides a fever, severe burns also involve significant pain and extensive fluid-filled blisters.

Heat Rash – A heat rash is a skin rash that occurs when sweat ducts trap perspiration under the skin. Heat rash often takes place during hot, humid weather and often looks like red clusters of pimples or small blisters. Heat rash develops in skin folds, elbow creases, the groin or on the neck and upper chest. Heat rash can be treated by staying in a cool environment to prevent sweating and by keeping the affected area of skin dry. To help relieve the symptoms of heat rash, the CDC suggests using powder to increase comfort. However, it is not advised to use ointment or creams.

Skin Cancer – The worst consequence of long-term exposure to the sun is the development of skin cancer. The sun causes damage to the skin that will develop over years meaning the older you are the more you’re at risk of developing skin cancer. There are 3 types of skin cancers that can be developed through long-term exposure to the sun, they are (in order of most common to least common);

  • Basel Cell Carcinoma (BCC) – This type of skin cancer almost always occurs on sun-damaged skin and is usually pink, shiny and raised. The skin becomes very soft, it may be easily injured and so may appear as a scab that keeps returning in the same spot. Basal cell carcinoma is especially common in the beard area of men where they use a razor and take the top off the cancer. Although BCC doesn’t generally spread, it does get bigger and deeper over time and can become a problem if ignored.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – This skin cancer is also caused by exposure to the sun but can also occur in burn scars (from either heat or radiation treatment) or from chronic ulcers of the skin. In a small number of cases, SCC can spread to the lymph nodes and (rarely) to other organs. These can vary in severity and may require special surgical treatments for removal, if they are large or in difficult-to-treat areas.
  • Malignant Melanoma – Melanoma is the least common of these skin cancers, but it is increasing every year, especially in young women between the ages of 18 and 29 because of the high rate of tanning bed use in this population. Melanoma is very dangerous and can occur any place where there are pigment-producing cells, include the entire skin (it does not have to be in direct sun-exposed areas, but sun exposure increases the risk), moles, birthmarks and the eye. It can spread to lymph nodes and beyond to other organs, including the brain, lungs and liver. Melanoma is much more common in families with a history of abnormal moles or malignant melanoma. Those who have had melanoma have a significant risk of developing other melanomas, so its recommended to get regular skin checks. It is very important that malignant melanoma be diagnosed early, as the thinner the tumour is, the less likely it is to spread. Although there is a lot of research into treatment of melanoma, the best treatment is surgical removal of the tumour and any involved lymph nodes before it has spread.

Wrinkles & Ageing – We associate wrinkles with ageing but sun exposure is a significant factor in their development and how early they appear. UV light damages collagen and elastic tissue in the skin, so it becomes fragile and does not spring back into shape, causing sagging. The only factor worse than too much UV light exposure for aging and wrinkling is cigarette smoking, which causes the skin to become yellowish and thick with deep wrinkles. Some people will also get white cysts and blackheads on the cheekbones from sun exposure and smoking. UV light exposure also causes white and dark spots on the skin, as it can damage surface cells.

It is important to mention that tanning/sun beds are not better than direct sunlight. This is a common misconception that is promoted by the tanning industry. Many adults and young people i.e. teenagers will use tanning beds for certain reasons i.e. teenagers tend to use them before their prom or in preparation for an event such as holidays or even weddings. Tanning beds put out UVA light that is much more intense than what you receive outdoors, because it does not work as efficiently as UVB light. UVA goes significantly deeper in the skin than UVB and not only causes skin cancer, but it can cause more leathery, wrinkled skin. Ultraviolet radiation. Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun, can burn the skin, and cause skin cancer. UV radiation is made up of three types of rays – ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC). Ultraviolet C is the most dangerous of type of ultraviolet light.

It is also highly important to protect yourself when in direct sunlight as much of the damage caused to our skin from the sun can be prevented. It is important to apply sun cream 20 minutes before going out into the sunshine and then reapply sun cream after 2 hours in the sun or after any swimming or heavy sweating. It is important that you don’t use too much or too little sun cream so that you are protected correctly. If you are going to be outside for a long period of time a hat is very useful to protect your scalp, hair, and to shield your eyes. Talking of eyes – wearing sunglasses can also help greatly. Remember to take regular breaks from the sun by sitting under cover i.e. an umbrella/parasol or tree for example, or any other kind of shaded area.

Cold Weather:

Cold temperatures can also affect your health but can bring many other risks to you and your loved ones. There are the usual coughs and colds that can affect us physiologically, but there is also the risk of flooding and storms that could potentially harm us physically. There are also other physical risks such as injuries caused from slips, trips and falls. As we get older it becomes harder for our bodies to detect how cold we are, and it takes longer to warm up which can be bad for our health. For older people, in particular, the longer the exposure to the cold, the more risk of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, depression, worsening arthritis and increased accidents at home (associated with loss of strength and dexterity in the hands).

Some health problems such as asthma, sore throat and cold sores are triggered or worsened by the cold weather. Below are some more health risks that can be triggered by the cold weather and what you can do to prevent them;

Colds – You can help to prevent colds by regularly washing your hands. This destroys any bugs or germs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by others such as door handles and light switches. It is also very important to keep any household items such as cups, glasses and cutlery clean, especially if someone in your house is ill. If you are suffering from a cold use disposable tissues instead of handkerchiefs to avoid re-infecting your own hands with any germs.

Sore Throat – Sore throats are very common during the winter time, and almost always caused by a viral infection. There is evidence that a change in temperature such as going from a warm heated room to the icy outdoors can affect the throat. A quick remedy to help with a sore throat is to gargle with some warm salt water. Dissolve one tea spoon of salt into a glass of part cooled, boiled water. This won’t taste very nice or heal the infection but will sooth the soreness due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Asthma – Cold air is a major trigger for asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. People who suffer with asthma should be more careful during the winter period. It is recommended to stay indoors on cold, windy days. If you do choose to go out, make sure to wear a warm coat and a scarf which can cover over your mouth and nose loosely. Be sure to be extra vigilant when taking your regular medication(s) and always keep inhalers close by.

Norovirus – Also known as the winter vomiting bug, norovirus is an extremely infectious stomach bug. It can strike all year round but is more common in winter and in places such as hotels, hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The illness is unpleasant, but it’s usually over within a few days. When people are ill with vomiting and diarrhoea, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Young children and the elderly are also especially at risk. By drinking oral rehydration fluids (available from pharmacies), you can reduce the risk of dehydration.

Painful Joints – Many people with arthritis say their joints become more painful and stiff in winter, though it’s not clear why this is the case. There’s no evidence to suggest that changes in the weather causes joint damage. Many people can get a little depressed during the winter months, and this can also make them perceive pain more acutely. Everything feels worse, including medical conditions. Daily exercise can boost a person’s mental and physical state. Swimming is ideal as it’s very easy on the joints.

Cold Sores – Most of us recognise that cold sores are a sign that we’re run down or under stress. While there’s no cure for cold sores, you can reduce the chances of getting one by looking after yourself through winter. Every day do things that make you feel less stressed, such as having a hot bath, going for a walk in the park, or watching one of your favourite films.

Heart Attacks – Heart attacks are more common in winter. This may be because cold weather increases blood pressure and puts more strain on the heart. Your heart also has to work harder to maintain body heat when it’s cold. Stay warm in your home. Heat the main rooms you use to at least 18C and use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to keep warm in bed. Wrap up warm when you go out and wear a hat, scarf and gloves.

Cold Hands & Feet – Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common condition that makes your fingers and toes change colour and become very painful in cold weather. Fingers can go white, then blue, then red, and throb and tingle. The small blood vessels of the hands and feet go into spasm, temporarily reducing blood flow to your hands and feet. In severe cases, medication can help, but most people manage to live with their symptoms. Smoking or drinking caffeine can actually worsen symptoms, and always wear warm gloves, socks and shoes when going out in cold weather.

Dry Skin – Dry skin is a common condition and is, again, often worse during the winter when environmental humidity is low. Moisturising is essential. Contrary to popular belief, moisturising lotions and creams aren’t absorbed by the skin. Instead, they act as a sealant to stop the skin’s natural moisture evaporating away. The best time to apply moisturiser is after a bath or shower while your skin is still moist, and again at bedtime. Have warm, rather than hot, showers. Water that is too hot makes skin feel drier and itchier.

Flu – Flu can be a major killer of vulnerable people. People aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are particularly at risk. The best way to prevent getting flu is to have the flu jab (or flu nasal spray for children aged 2 to 17). The flu vaccine gives good protection against flu and lasts for one year. If you are over 65 or have a long-term health condition, you are also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which provides protection against pneumonia. Find out if you’re at risk of getting flu by asking your GP.

Storms / Thunder & Lightening:

Some research suggests that storms or thunder and lightening can cause some to experience headaches and migraines. Its said that if you’re prone to headaches, grey skies high humidity, rising temperatures and storms can all bring on head pain. Pressure changes that cause weather changes are thought to trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain. This irritates nerves, leading to a headache. There’s not much you can do to change the weather. However, by looking at the forecast, you can predict when you’re likely to have a headache and take a preventative painkiller a day or two in advance. Storms can often cause damage to the earth which could have more devastating effects on peoples lives. Storms can cause flooding which can cause drowning if severe enough and cause damage to houses and other structures making it very dangerous in the flooded areas. Lightening can also strike the ground and buildings and in rare cases a person. The chances of this fatality occurring is 1 in 10 million although, this is more likely than winning the lottery which is 1 in 10,000,000! I know which one I would rather be involved in.

My Views of the Weather

Now I’m no weather man nor expert but I do have my own opinions of the weather & what you should do to protect yourself from the elements. My birthday is in December so if you’re from the UK you know how cold it is around winter, especially in December. I’m a master of my own downfall because if I’m on a night out around this time, I hate to take a jacket or jumper. This is because most of the time when in a busy pub or bar I won’t wear it & I don’t like to carry it around or have to keep an eye on it all night. Obviously, this then leads to me getting man flu, and complaining until it’s gone… “serves you right” as the partner would say! I hate having a cold, it irritates my nose to the point I’d take it off if possible. Colds always affect my eyes the most, they constantly water and at times I can find it very difficult to see.

The best thing about winter for me is the cosy nights in, not to mention my birthday and Christmas! Imagine all the presents! (I wish). Sometimes it’s good just to do nothing and chill out. You can’t beat being tucked up in bed or next to the fire with a film on, good company and lots of food. Everyone seems in good spirit around December with Christmas fast approaching and we all get a well-deserved break from work to enjoy some quality time with family and friends while getting some much-needed rest too.

For me I am the total opposite in summer than I am winter. I love just to get out & spend as much time as possible in a beer garden with friends and loved ones with good music, cold, refreshing drinks and a relaxed mood. I hope we have many more summers like the one we have had this year (still ongoing). This is the best summer I can remember in terms of weather in my lifetime. It has been so hot for so long with very little change. Although, I am thankful for a good storm and some rain now and again, just to clear the air, and to help cool it down a little.

There are only a couple of things that I don’t like about summer. One of them being wasps. Why can’t they just leave you alone?! Anyone would thing we carry pollen around with us. Touch wood; I have never been stung by a wasp yet, but know a few people who have and let’s just say, rather them than me! I had a pet dog called Saracen who once tried to eat one and as you can probably guess, it didn’t go down too well. The wasp stung Saracen’s tongue causing extreme swelling, a sad dog and a hefty vet bill for my dad. He wasn’t happy at all, neither was my dad! Every time a wasp comes close to me, I turn into a professional boxer, or ninja: trying my hardest to get it away from me or me getting away from it!

The other thing I don’t like about summer is trying to sleep when it’s just too hot & muggy. I find myself so tired a lot of the time due to not being able to sleep well at night. This obviously influences work days and weekends. I’m not getting enough sleep in the week but have to get up for work and then I’m struggling to stay awake on the night to spend time with my partner. I’m also catching up on sleep over the weekend, so I don’t always make plans and end up staying in too. I’ve been saved recently by the two fans we have in the room, to help keep us cool when trying to sleep come night time.

Storms often scare some people, but I love to watch thunder and lightening from the bedroom window. I always remember one year me and my family were on holiday in Turkey and the night we were due to fly home they had a huge fork lighting storm. It was amazing standing on the balcony watching all the lightning bolts in the sky, but I was not looking forward to getting on a plane after that display. Fortunately, we never had to worry, as the storm stopped in time.

I think it is important to look after ourselves in both the cold and warm weather. Make sure you wear sun cream at all times in the sun. You don’t realise how easily it can burn you. I have been burnt by the sun when I was again on holiday in Turkey as a youngster. I was too eager to get into the pool and ended up with blisters all over. I was in so much pain just from moving or from having sun cream applied afterwards. Definitely won’t be doing that again. Also, be sure to wrap up warm when leaving the house in the winter, don’t be like me and welcome in colds and flu without adequate cover.

Many thanks for reading.

Bloggie Ben.

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