Weather, and illness.
I went to bed last night with an annoying chesty cough. I took some tablets, and retired early. I had been feeling cold for two days, after a change in the weather from twenty degrees and sunny, to thirteen degrees and showery. I woke up not feeling that much better, even though I had slept soundly for over ten hours. That got me thinking about the connection between illness, and weather.
When I was young, many forms of illness were blamed on the weather. Coming home in wet clothes, I would be told, “Get out of those wet things, or you will catch your death of cold”.
During some of the famous London smogs, we were issued with cloth ‘smog masks’ at school, and told that we must not breathe the air outside without wearing them. Apparently, the air would affect our breathing, and leave us with long-term lung problems. They seemed to forget that I was returning home to a house heated by smoky coal fires, and to parents who chain-smoked cigarettes.
Sitting too long in the sun was never considered to be a health hazard though. I never knew that sun cream existed, until I was in my mid twenties. But when I started to get severe hay fever in my teens, I was told it was ‘the hot air’, and that I should shut my bedroom window as I slept, so as not to breathe too much in. Visiting sick relatives or friends was never an issue either, as long as they put their hand over their mouths when they coughed or sneezed, I was reliably informed. Once they had finished coughing or sneezing, we were of course expected to hug them, and kiss them goodbye as we left.
It wasn’t long before the government became involved with trying to tell us all that it was nothing to do with the weather. It was ‘viruses’, and they were spread by close contact, especially among families, and on public transport. Information films began to appear, with catchy titles like, ‘Coughs and Sneezes spread Diseases’. They showed people using handkerchiefs, and covering their mouths when they coughed. But despite this new information, my Mum still insisted that the weather was mostly to blame, and that I should always take a jumper or coat when I went out, “Just in case”.
Now I am older, I have discovered that I am more susceptible to illness. A long life has weakened my immune system, making things like cuts take longer to heal, and other medical conditions much harder to shake off, once established. But I socialise rarely, and use public transport even less. Other than walking around with Ollie, I am inside most of the time, and always dressed appropriately for any conditions. But having gone from walking in warm and pleasant sunshine, to having to dress up in warm clothes to take my dog out, in the space of three days, something has got into my system and has left me with a cough that seems difficult to shift.
I blame the weather.