Northwest Arkansas temperatures can vary a lot — 76 degrees on Wednesday, 21 degrees on Saturday, and 64 with thunderstorms on Monday. Does this make your kids more likely to get sick, or does it just seem that way?
Many people believe that changing weather leads to illness. The average child gets four to eight little bugs each year. Chances are good that at least some of those colds or stomach viruses will happen during changeable weather.
When that happens, it’s easy to imagine that the changeable weather caused the illness. Then we remember that example when it happens again, and forget the times when the illness and the fluctuating temperatures didn’t go together.
That’s part of what makes this idea so common: confirmation bias. We see the evidence for things we are already prepared to believe.
However, changes in weather can go along with catching contagious illnesses, the same way that ice cream sales correlate with shark attacks. It’s not that sharks find people who have eaten ice cream tastier. It’s that both those things happen in the summer.
Changes in the weather can bring in circumstances that encourage viruses, like dry air or groups of people gathering together indoors. Those changes in the environment and in human behavior can lead to higher levels of contagion.
It’s not that the weather causes illness. Viruses do that. But the weather can show up along with circumstances that increase the chances of catching something.
Sometimes weather changes can make people feel…well…under the weather. Some people are sensitive to air pressure, and a storm may make them feel poorly. Wind can pick up allergens and spread them around, affecting people with allergies.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can kick in when seasons change. Cold, dry air can irritate some people’s bronchia. It’s even possible for sudden temperature changes to affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to catching a cold.
While adults can recognize the connection between weather and wellness, you may not see that with your children. Especially if there’s something “going around” — and there nearly always is — your mind will jump to that cold or stomach bug.
You can’t control the weather. You can’t keep your child from catching things that are going around. However, you can help your child get fewer of those bugs.
- Masks made the 2020 flu season a mild one, reduce the transmission of COVID19, and can help keep kids from spreading other kinds of germs.
There is no evidence that wearing a mask at school is harmful for child development, so don’t resist mask mandates. They can reduce the number of colds your kids bring home, too.
- Handwashing is key. Some diseases are airborne, but a lot of disease transmission happens when kids share toys, hold hands, and generally spread germs around. Many kids have gotten into the handwashing habit. Encourage that habit in your children to reduce illness.
- Healthy habits can help your kids (and you) stave off illness. It can be tough for busy families to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. It’s worth the effort, though, and may reduce the number of sick days you and your children have.
True, these solutions have nothing to do with the weather. However, they will help you keep your kids as healthy as possible during changeable weather.