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The Impact of Cold on Health: Understanding the Effects and Prevention

Person braving the cold weather thinking about oriental medicine

Understanding the Effects of Cold on Health

How do you feel about cold? Some people hate being cold or living in a cold place. They prefer summer and stay close to a heater in the winter. It is easy to be affected by cold when the temperature drops suddenly. For example if the weather is mild on one day and then cold the next; or perhaps when it is cold for an extended period of time; or also when we are exhausted because we are tired or overworked.

How Cold Causes Pain

When cold gets in our bodies, it slows us down and makes us contract inside. Sometimes this means pain. What happens inside your head if you eat ice cream quickly? The cold of the ice cream creates an intense pain. How about if you touch snow without gloves. The pain can be excruciating. These are examples of cold causing pain.

The pain from cold is sharp and intense. It can be the cause of a range of pains, such as period pains, joint pains, back pain, some headaches or abdominal pains – in fact any sharp, intense and ‘biting’ pain. And of course these pains are always relieved to some degree by heat.

Cold and Infertility: A Traditional Oriental Medicine Perspective

You may be surprised to know that according to traditional Oriental medicine, 'Cold in the uterus' is believed to be one of the most common causes of infertility in women.

The Connection Between Cold and Back Pain

Back pain can be caused by a change in temperature too. For example, being in a swimsuit on the beach in the spring. Your pores are open as you sweat. But when the sun goes in or you stay in the shade, you can get chilled. The next day you have a backache caused by this trapped wind-cold. You don’t connect it with the beach the day before and you don’t know why you are in pain as you have not done anything physical to cause damage to your back.

Preventing Health Issues Caused by Cold: Practical Tips

There are some things you can do to prevent cold affecting your health:

  • Wear layers rather than just one thick fabric. The layers trap warmth and protect the body better than only one thickness.

  • Be aware of your constitution. If you are a naturally chilly person, cold will have a greater effect than if you are more warm-blooded. Older people are particularly vulnerable to the cold.

  • Be aware of the seasons. When the weather is hot we can wear fewer clothes, swim in cold water or eat colder food – but not in the colder winter.

  • Notice any sharp pains you feel when you are out in cold weather. It is a sign that an area is affected by the cold – so cover up. This can be painful ears, hands, feet or head.

  • If you do get stomach pains from the cold, immediately put something warm, such as a hot water bottle, on the area.

  • Avoid cold metal seats or stone steps. Protect yourself by sitting on a newspaper or magazine. It may be better to stand if there is nothing else available. This especially applies to people who have sensitivity to cold including women who have a tendency to get period pains from cold in the uterus.

  • Protect yourself so that cold doesn’t travel up your legs to your abdomen. Wear slippers and keep your feet warm.

  • Cover your legs in the cold. Women who wear miniskirts in the cold tend to accumulate subcutaneous fat on their thighs to protect them.

  • Avoid leaving the abdomen uncovered. Even in mild weather cold can ‘invade’ the abdomen or back causing stomach, bowel, or back problems or even infertility or period pains.

  • Take care with cold food. It can cause stomach pain, loose bowels and other abdominal symptoms, especially if eaten in vast quantities or you have a tendency to feel the cold. When it’s cold it’s important to eat hotter food and keep warm. Examples of cold food are: bananas, tomatoes, melons, lettuce, cucumbers, crab, yogurt and ice cream.

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