Health

Weather whiplash: why you feel funny when the weather changes

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Lauren Geall
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You’re not imagining it: changes in the weather really can mess with your body. Here, a medical expert explains all.

The weather’s been a bit all over the place recently, hasn’t it? One day you’re waking up to brilliant sun and 20ºC+ weather, and the next you’re being met with torrential rain and grey, overcast skies. Unless you’re keeping an eye on the forecast 24/7, it’s hard to keep up.

But on top of the fact that these changes in the weather make knowing how to dress nearly impossible (choosing to wear a jumper these days is like playing a game of temperature lottery), they can also take their toll on your body.

If you’ve ever noticed that you feel tired, lethargic and achy when the weather is all over the place, you’ll know what we’re talking about. The changing weather doesn’t just have the power to impact your mood – thanks to a phenomenon some experts call ‘weather whiplash’, sudden changes in temperature, pressure and humidity levels can cause physical symptoms, too. 

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“When the weather changes from full sun to cloud and rain it can make us feel lethargic and exhausted,” explains Parvinder Sagoo, lead medical adviser and clinician at Simply Meds Online. “High levels of humidity brought on from rainy weather makes the temperature feel warmer than it actually is, and if the sun has also been out this quick and sharp level of change can confuse our body which leaves us feeling tired, agitated and lethargic.”

On top of this, Sagoo adds, changes in the weather can also cause headaches thanks to the changes in pressure associated with shifting weather conditions. 

“Gloomy, grey skies, high humidity and recurring storms can often bring on head pain and pressure,” he explains. “These types of headaches are known as barometric pressure headaches, and occur after there is a drop in barometric pressure. This is because the pressure changes can trigger both chemical and electrical changes in the brain which then aggravate the nerves and lead to headaches.”

A sky with sun and cloud
Sudden changes in the weather can take their toll on your body.

Symptomatically, barometric pressure headaches are typically similar to usual headaches or migraines, but there are a handful of other symptoms to look out for, including nausea and vomiting, as well as increased sensitivity to light and a foggy mind.  

And while Sagoo acknowledges there’s not much you can do to avoid changes in the weather, there are a handful of things you can do to ease symptoms and make the experience easier. 

“I would advise drinking plenty of water throughout the day when the weather starts to change and keeping hydration levels up and taking frequent breaks from your phone or computer screen to prevent eye strain and further sensitivity,” Sagoo says.

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“You can also try taking a hot bath or shower to try and relax tense muscles, applying a heating pad or ice pack to your head for five minutes several times a day, and, if you’re working at a desk, sit up straight and take regular breaks to walk around,” he adds.

Sagoo also suggests trying to get outside once a day (wearing sunglasses if you’re experiencing eye sensitivity), and giving yourself a head or temple massage to relieve tension.

“Migraine medication is also an option if you find yourself experiencing these headaches more frequently,” he adds. “You should visit your GP if you are experiencing headaches consistently and severely and if they are interfering with your daily life.” 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.