Let It Snow?

Let It Snow?

It’s snowing outside now as I write this, which isn’t that unusual for March in Minnesota. March, depressingly, is often our snowiest month, much to the frustration of everyone who’s desperate for spring weather to arrive (which is, well, everyone). I’m pretty desperate for warm weather, sunshine, and no snow as well, however there’s something that comes with warmer weather that I’m not looking forward to: my RA getting worse.

Warm weather makes my RA worse

Am I crazy? Why would warm weather make my RA worse? Unfortunately, it does. The heat and humidity of summer dramatically increases my joint inflammation and RA activity, and especially makes my right foot and ankle blow up with swelling and pain. So while these pretty white snowflakes that are softly falling outside my window right now aren’t great for my mental health as we near the end of March, my RA loves them and the dry, cold weather. I dread the day when the weather will dramatically switch from lovely cool spring days to air heavy and swollen with muggy humidity. When this happens, my body immediately begins to revolt. Fingers puff up, everything aches, and my constantly-swollen right ankle balloons even more, causing disabling pain. So yeah, I kind of hate summer. I also hate sweating, but that’s another story.

Different weather preferences for different people

I find it interesting how so many people prefer warm and even hot weather for their joints and RA. Am I a strange anomaly with my preference for cold weather? Is it because I’m used to it, living in the cold, icy tundra-land of the North? I was born and raised in Minnesota and I can still clearly remember “normal” childhood winters that consisted of mountains of snow everywhere that took months and months to melt. I’m also familiar with school and business closings due to outside temperatures dangerously below zero with windchills in the -20s and -30s. No big deal! I’m a Scandinavian with cold weather in her genes and bones, yet before I got RA at age 18, I loved summer. A lot. Since then, warm, summery weather has wreaked havoc on my body. Also strange, perhaps, is that the cold weather doesn’t make my RA worse at all. It doesn’t stiffen up my joints or cause any extra aching or pain. No, not at all. It feels good. Am I a weirdo or what? Who cares, I guess. I’m an RA weirdo who loves cold weather.

Always trying to figure out RA

RA is such a complex, complicated, and perplexing disease because it affects everyone differently. It can also change on you at any time, which doesn’t help things when you’re always trying to figure out how to keep it under control. I am grateful for the few things that I’ve been able to deduce or nail down about how the disease affects me during these 20 years of living with it; there’s not much, however. A clue here, a clue there…I often feel like I’m playing detective with what’s going on with my body–and I’m usually a bad detective. But! Recognizing that hot, humid weather makes my RA and entire body miserable is a pretty important thing to pay attention to, I think.

So, what am I supposed to do, knowing how the heat and humidity causes my joints noticeably more swelling and pain? Most people don’t know this, but Minnesota during the summer is extremely hot and humid. There is not snow year-round, contrary to popular belief (or jokes). It gets tropical-like, while being maddeningly landlocked and nowhere near an ocean. People barricade themselves indoors lapping up the central air-conditioning. This is ridiculous when you think about it, that for the majority of the year we are forced to remain indoors due to either extreme cold or heat. But yeah, it gets very hot and humid and miserable here. Should I start taking a summer hiatus to somewhere cold and/or dry? I don’t know where I’d go, but I’m really tempted to do it. As I mentioned before, I really hate sweating. And pain. I’m not too keen on wearing shorts, either, when it comes down to it.

Summer’s coming and my ankle is already screaming at me, “No! No! Escape!” Who knows, I just might. Are there any other cold-loving “RA weirdos” who want to join me? Oh, Canada…?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (12)
  • lulu9898
    12 months ago

    Cold, dampness, and no sunshine causes my bones to ache. Maybe because I live in the South. However, during Spring Break we had a quick vacation to the panhandle of Florida, temperatures were in the 60’s and 70’s during the day and bone-chilling 40’s at night. Surprisingly after chasing toddlers into the surf, I realized the bone-chilling ocean was actually helping my joints and I had more energy and less fatigue. Sadly, I noticed on my 3-mile walk on shore that I was struggling with my hips and ankles. (I walk 3 miles at least 3 times a week on a treadmill) At 42 I am not looking forward to this progression!

  • Wren moderator
    12 months ago

    Oh, I’m with you, Angela. My RD hates hot weather, too, though it mostly not humid here in Northern California. Nope, just really, really hot (90-105) from May through November. My joints gripe the whole time. Summer that lasts for seven months is wayyyyy too long, believe me!
    I understand why you’re tired of the snow, but I do hope that you’ll have a decent break between frigid and hot/humid. I get your angst, totally. 😉

  • Syl
    12 months ago

    I dread the summer months and I’ve started to prepare myself for the most challenging seven months of the year (Apr-Oct). I live in southern New Mexico and our summers are brutal. We’ve already bypassed Spring and have jumped directly into Summer. It was a miserable 80 degrees today and my body reminded me of that misery. I’m most comfortable when the temps run between 55-60. So I definitely understand where you’re coming from; you are not alone!

  • KJ0509
    12 months ago

    I’m with you. I was born & raised in upstate NY but have been down south (Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and now Florida of all places) since 1998 and I truly cannot take the humidity and heat. My joints swell and get so stiff and the air feels like it weighs 500 lbs and just sits and settles in my knees, elbows and fingers. But yet I’ve been down south so long now that I can’t really tolerate the cold either, but not for joint/RA reasons. Just because it’s cold. There’s no winning really. But to be honest, sometimes I wish I still lived up north. I never had any RA issues living there. But then I think of all the snow still on the ground …..‍♀️‍♀️ I can’t win.

  • Carla Kienast
    12 months ago

    Considering that they recommend ice to reduce swelling and inflammation, perhaps there’s a connection. (???) I’m not subject to temperature differences as much as I seem to be affected by barometric pressure. A low-pressure front, signaling incoming rain/thunderstorms gets me aching all over. (Regardless of what the studies say about rainy weather and painful joints!)

  • suann
    12 months ago

    Hi Carla, Im also affected by the barometric pressure..The humidity hurts alot…I think now after 59 yrs of dealing with this almost anything hurts my body…A feather running across my bones will hurt..

  • jdaph
    12 months ago

    I also live in Minnesota, and today is miserable for me with late March snow,, not only physically but mentally, emotionally.. I LOVE hot , dry, hot,, did I say hot already? Anyway, I long to be able to pick up and move to Arizona. but I’m stuck here. Humidity does bother me,, but air conditioning is my enemy. I cant stand being cold,, But alas,, here I am in Minnesota. its interesting that hot and humidity bother you more than cold.. But as you said R.A. is different for every person with it.. Thanks for the post.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi jdaph. Sounds like you moisture is your enemy. Thought you might understand what this other contributor has to say on the subject of weather and how the rain impacts here: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/another-weather-rant/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Tich
    12 months ago

    I know my comfort range has narrowed, but sometimes I am fooled into blaming temperature when there is a change underway. RA is progressive, so watch for changes that need to be discussed with your doctor.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Tich. Thanks for bringing up an important point about recognizing that sometimes a change in RA symptoms is a change in the RA. It is absolutely important to know one’s body and recognize when to notify the doctor about symptom changes. In this article one of our contributors discusses when to call the doctor: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/when-to-call-the-doctor/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    12 months ago

    I am a 70 – 80 degree person. I ride my bicycle at 60 and rising so that is when I start to feel better, above 100 seems a little hot. I wish I could used to less than 50, but even sitting in a 70 degree house I am wrapped up in a blanket freezing.

    Of course I live in high humidity Indiana so maybe that is understandable.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    12 months ago

    Angela! I loved this article!! I think I prefer warm weather but my summers are really humid too so sometimes that affects my RA. The cold always messes with me HOWEVER! This past year my back gave out because of osteoporosis and the cold made it feel a bit better (almost like it was naturally icing it??)

    I think it is imporant to keep track of trends but like you said, RA affects everyone differently and it can change!!

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