Autumn Ailments: Sicknesses to Look Out for This Fall
October 13, 2017
Autumn is often associated with being sick—certainly more so than summer. This is for good reason. While summer does bring its own set of sicknesses, fall weather brings rise to more and generally worse issues.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what these issues are, and why they thrive in autumn.
Colds and Flus
Most people are aware of what colds and flus are, and those who are not are incredibly lucky. People also know that colds and flus are more common in the fall and winter, but very few people are sure of exactly why.
WebMD discussed this briefly, citing one major reason: the cooler temperatures in the fall and winter make the conditions perfect for the rhinovirus which can cause colds. This is commonly known, but even more commonly misunderstood. The cold weather doesn’t directly promote the growth of bacteria. Instead, it lowers our internal body temperature. Long periods in the cold weather, and inhalation of cold air are major sources of this. Of course, if our body temperature reached too low it would cause much worse problems. However, it can reach 91 degrees Fahrenheit—the temperature at which rhinovirus grows best.
The reasons for the rise in flu cases are less clear. Many attribute the change to schools. As we’ve discussed before, schools are a safe haven for germs. This increases the risk for flu amongst children, which quickly transfers to adults.
Bronchioles are small airways in the lungs, like veins for air instead of blood. Bronchiolitis is a disease that occurs when the bronchioles become inflamed, causing swelling and mucus buildup. The disease is rough, and can cause rare occurrences of hospitalization. And cold weather doesn’t help at all. While the disease is actually more common in the spring, it’s effects are worse in the fall and winter. This is because the cold weather causes further contraction in the bronchioles, making it even more difficult to breathe.
Ear infections are very similar to bronchiolitis. Space in the middle of the ear which is meant to be well ventilated can be blocked up by mucus, causing extreme pain. While this is more common in children, it affects adults, as well.
The Eustachian tube in the inner ear is normally well-ventilated, but can easily become congested, warm, and wet. Much like bronchiolitis, this is worsened in the cold weather as tubular contraction causes congestion. Unlike bronchiolitis, ear infections are heavily affected by congestion in other areas, though. The increase in likelihood of colds and flus can lead to even more ear infections.
Raynaud’s syndrome, or Raynaud’s phenomenon, is a little-known vascular disease that causes symptoms like frostbite. While it is difficult to diagnose, Raynaud’s causes our extremities (finger tips, toes, and ears) to lose feeling. Fingertips can go white from lack of blood flow, or blue from lack of oxygen.
You likely do not have Raynaud’s syndrome, however, you have probably experienced Raynaud’s phenomenon. You probably wear gloves because of it. It’s easy to see why Raynaud’s phenomenon happens in the winter, and why it worsens. Cold weather slows blood flow, and certainly doesn’t help with the feeling of cold that it gives those who suffer from it.
Sinusitis is characterized by an inflammation of inner tissues in the sinus. Sinusitis can be grating, and is often long-lasting. Sinusitis is most common in children, though adults who smoke will suffer, as well. It can also be caused by a deviated septum. The most likely causes of sinusitis are allergic rhinitis and the common cold. From this, it is easy to see why sinusitis increases in the fall and winter.
Heart failure is self-explanatory, however, it’s fall and winter prominence is not. The British Heart Foundation published an in-depth piece about the several reasons that cold weather can cause heart problems. According to them, cold weather causes the heart to work harder than it would otherwise, leading to an increased heart rate and blood pressure. This makes autumn an awful time for anyone who has prior heart problems.
In conclusion, the cold weather sicknesses in the fall and winter can often be boiled down to one of two causes. The first is a lower body temperature, which promotes the growth of germs. The second is the contraction of tubes inside the body, especially in the sinus, lungs, and heart. This contraction causes congestion and increased blood pressure.