Polar Vortexes. Cold Snaps. Snow Squalls. Blizzards. These are the things that the winter of 2013/2014 has been made of and because of it students have been walking through their campuses in a winter wonderland. However, the real wonder of this season is how these frigid and bitter weather conditions are affecting our health.
According to BBC, the body has many “defense mechanisms” for the cold weather. Body shivers and teeth chattering occur all as a result of the hypothalamus, which is essentially a thermostat in your brain. These reactions and others, like goose bumps, are the body’s attempt at trying to warm the vital organs. When feeling these symptoms, seek warm shelter. Other symptoms appear when the body is not too cold.
While side effects from allergies are characteristic of springtime due to the blossoming flower’s pollen consuming the air around us, it can also be a bother in the colder months as well. WebMD says that because of the sudden change in temperature it can cause non-allergic rhinitis, which has all of the symptoms of an allergy but without the actual cause of allergens or pollen. If experiencing non-allergic rhinitis, antihistamines are the first medicine of choice when allergies kick in.
Similar to non-allergic rhinitis is the cold and flu. These are also very common during the winter months. One Welsh study suggests that the cold weather can decrease the amount of white blood cells in the nasal passages. White blood cells fight infections in the body. A virus’ most common path to destructing the body is through the nostrils and without the white blood cells there, it is very easy to get sick.
If you have to walk far to get to classes on campus, or have a job exposing you to the outside elements, you could be susceptible to cold stress. There are five main types of cold stress: hypothermia, trench foot, frostbite, cold water immersion, and chilblains. While these are all different types of cold stress, they all share a commonality: too much cold and not enough time for the body to warm up. A way to prevent these symptoms from happening is by wearing proper clothing to keep your body as warm as possible.
Another outcome of the winter weather affects mental health. Seasonal Effective Disorder is a type of depression that can develop in five percent of Americans, states Consumer Reports. The symptoms for this are similar to that of other forms of depression such as sadness, fatigue, and social withdrawal. A slight difference is people with SED are less likely to have thoughts of suicide and feelings of worthlessness. However, they are more likely to crave carbs, gain weight and move slowly.
If experiencing any of these effects, make sure to get it taken care of at Student Health Services. The Health Center is located between Hash and the Chryst Writing Center. The Counseling Center is in Lyle Hall, located by the pond.