a Particularly bad trifecta Influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) It already portends a harsh winter. But there’s another factor that likely contributes to the health season’s difficulty: a cooler-than-average season, which is expected in the North. we and the United kingdom.
Even the normal cold season can pose a threat to human health and safety. One 2015 study Posted in Lancet More than 74 million deaths worldwide were analyzed and found that more than 7% of deaths were attributed to exposure to cold temperatures. “There is compelling evidence that there is an increased risk of several health outcomes related to cold,” says Antonio Gasparini, lead author of the study and professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Rising natural gas costs mean that many families will struggle to heat their homes, compounding the problem. “I am very worried. Especially in Europe, [many] “Houses are heated by natural gas,” says Tina Ekaimo, a professor at the University of Tromsø, better known as Norway’s Arctic University. “[I’m especially worried] For those who cannot buy energy for their homes and for the elderly.
Here’s what you need to know about the impact of cold temperatures on health.
How dangerous cold weather can be
One of the most dangerous things about cold temperatures is that they come with an increased risk of heart disease, such as Heart attack And stroke, especially People with diseases such as heart disease. This is the result of the body’s natural defense system that kicks in as the temperature drops: to avoid losing heat to the environment, the skin’s blood vessels constrict, causing a natural increase in blood pressure. This happens suddenly as the body cools down, but the effect persists; People’s blood pressure tends to stay higher throughout the cold season, says Ikäheimo. The constriction of blood vessels also increases urination, which can cause dehydration if lost fluids are not replaced by drinking more water. These changes can cause the blood to thicken, which increases the risk of blood clots and forces the cardiovascular system to work harder.
The cold can also have harsh effects on the respiratory system and exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inhaling cold air can irritate the airway and cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, and mucus production.
Respiratory diseases such as influenza and COVID-19 are more prevalent in the winter. People tend to spend more time indoors and gather more often in homes and other indoor spaces in winter, which facilitates the spread of viruses. Some evidence also suggests that cool, dry weather may be ideal for the spread of influenza virus and influenza virus, which may mean that viruses can remain viable for longer and spread more efficiently, Ikaimo says.
Who are most vulnerable to the health effects of low temperatures?
Exposure to cold temperatures is more dangerous for people with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and diabetic. Older adults tend to have a mixture of Other related risk factors which may increase the risk of cold-related health effects. For example, during aging, metabolic systems slow down, the layer of subcutaneous fat thins, and organ systems are more likely to experience stress from a sudden change in temperature.
Low-income communities are also at greater risk than other people. Low-income families in the United States spend three times as much of their income on energy as wealthier families, said Laniki Howard, director of the Children’s and Families’ Office of Community Services, part of the US Department of Health. and Human Services, on November 2 press release.
On the same day, the Biden administration announce $4.5 billion to help low-income Americans cover their heating costs this winter.
Age UK, a charity providing services to the elderly, said in a statement statement In September, 2.8 million households over 60 in the UK are expected to live in energy poverty this cold season – meaning they will not be able to afford to properly heat their homes. That is 1.8 million more households than in 2021.
“In the UK we have the oldest stock of housing in Europe,” says Caroline Abrahams, Director of Age UK, which means that homes are difficult to heat. “People’s energy bills tend to be high at the best of times.” But because energy costs have risen, especially since Russia has cut exports to Europe, “our bills have gone up so quickly, that it confuses people. Even people who wouldn’t normally expect to have to worry about things like how much it costs to run heating now have to worry about it.” .
How to protect yourself
One surprising finding in Gasparini’s study is that some countries have many deaths attributed to the cold — but not necessarily because they are colder places. For example, in Sweden (which has colder winters than the UK), the death rate attributed to cold is lower than in the UK. old housing stockwhich is not suitable for cold weather. Sweden, meanwhileit has high thermal standards in buildings, and enforces the norm in which heating costs are Usually fixed part of the rent, unlike in the United Kingdom and other member states of the European Union. Ekhaimo also notes that people who live in places accustomed to the cold have learned this adapt their behaviour to protect themselves.
One modifiable way to protect yourself from the cold is to wear warm clothes. When you’re outside, Ikaimo says it’s important to wear adjustable layers: First, wear a base layer that can wick away moisture; Then put an inner layer to insulate you; Finally, wear a waterproof outer layer that can protect you from wind, snowfall, and rain. in the cold indoor environmentsLike she says, add layers to protect your extremities — like warm socks and scarves — and make sure the bedding is warm enough to keep you comfy at night.
More must-read books from TIME