The brutal heat of Summer is over! Everyone looks forward to cooler temperatures, the leaves changing color and the upcoming holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. But it’s not all good news. This time of year also brings its fair share of health problems with it. Do you know what the Fall’s most common diseases are? Some, you’ll get right away, but one or two might surprise you.
Fall’s Most Common Diseases
We’ll start with an easy one to get the ball rolling.
It’s flu season. Most people tend to equate getting the flu with Winter months, but it’s actually in the Fall when everything starts. By the time December rolls around, we’re in PEAK flu season, which is why people associate that time of year with the flu. Heck, some people consider themselves immune to the flu because they never get it. Maybe. Unlikely, but maybe. What’s more likely is that they are asymptomatic carriers of the disease. If you’re asking, what’s that, allow to explain. About 4% of people in the United States have the flu, but don’t have the runny nose or the cough or the sore throat. Indeed, they feel normal, which is the dangerous part to others because they can still transmit the disease. And without the symptoms, they are less likely to curtail being out in public and social, consequently (and unwittingly) spreading the flu to their friends.
This is why the CDC recommends that people take advantage of the flu shot that comes available in the Fall. Yes, we know there will be a lot of pushback on vaccinations for the flu, but this isn’t just about you and your family. It’s about all of us. In 2018, 80,000 people died of the flu according to the CDC, which was twice as many in previous years. The problem doesn’t seem to be getting better, with expectations of 2019’s season to potentially match or exceed that number. Left unchecked and untreated, the flu does not just go away. From there, it worsens to pneumonia, which can lead to hospitalization. The known dangers of not protecting yourself against the flu far outweigh theoretical dangers you might have heard about in chat rooms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Our bodies are complex machines and we don’t understand everything about how they work. In the Fall and continuing into Winter, some of us find ourselves gripped in depression. It’s usually attributed to the holidays, especially to people who are alone during this time, but evidence shows that this isn’t just a psychosomatic response to the seasons changing. SAD is a real thing.
The causes are as yet still unknown, but certain factors do play into the disease. Our internal clocks get jolted as days get shorter and nights get longer. This jolt to the system can cause depression. Serotonin in our bodies is created through sunlight exposure. Less time in the sun due to the shift in our clocks means less serotonin, which is a chemical that (among other things) regulates our mood. The change in seasons also affect our melatonin levels, which is the chemical that helps us sleep and recharge our batteries. Symptoms specific to SAD in Winter include: oversleeping, weight gain, food cravings for carbohydrates and low energy during the day. Now, these can hit from time to time and not be SAD, but when you start to experience consecutive days with no change in mood, it’s time to consult with a doctor.
Do you know the farmer’s tale of being able to predict the weather by feeling a twinge in their trick knee? “A storm’s a-coming!” Well, the predictive nature might be in question, but the drop in temperature that comes in Fall DOES cause flair ups of arthritis. So, when the cold comes, people with arthritis might find themselves feeling more aches and pains. The reason for this is that the drop in atmospheric pressure that causes a cold front, can cause expansion and contractions tendons, leading to joint pain. By the way, these same changes in pressure can cause havoc with sinuses too and are thought to be a cause for migraines as well.
Speaking of sinuses, Fall is also considered the height of allergy season too. A lot of pollen is released into the air from dying plants. Unraked leaves gather moisture, which leads to mold and mold spores. All of that can cause havoc to our sinuses. Asthmatics are especially at risk to experiencing an attack during this time of year. They already have trouble breathing and now there’s even more crap floating in the air. The severity of an asthma attack increases in the Fall as a result too.
Raynaud’s is the constriction of blood vessels, leading to numbness in fingers and toes. The extremities will also be more susceptible to cold and skin can even turn white from lack of blood. There are actually two types of Raynaud’s: Primary and Secondary. Primary is most common and goes away when bodies are removed from the cold and warmth seeps back in, returning everything back to normal. Secondary, however, is a potential sign of other problems in our bodies. Of particular concern to people with Secondary Raynaud’s (but not limited to) is heart disease, because Raynaud’s can be caused by the hardening of blood vessels. Anytime this is the case, blood flow is reduced, which obviously leads to heart problems. Because cooler weather alters blood flow, a person with heart disease can feel more pain or discomfort this time of year. If this sounds like you, you should consider getting your heart tested and seeing a doctor.
Obviously, the range of diseases related to the change from Summer to Fall and from Fall to Winter is wide. Some are clearly more likely than others, but it’s always better to be forewarned of the possibilities, so you can adjust accordingly. Always better to be prepared, then to be caught unawares. This way, you can enjoy the waning months of the year more and hopefully spend less time feeling miserable.