While I work on my monster grant proposal — I and my colleagues have been working on it for 9 months, but with the deadline only 3 months away it is time to turn the volume up to 11 — blogging may be light or brief. But posting something is an excuse to take a break and surf the web a bit, so that’s what you’ll be getting for the next 3 months. After that I’ll probably check into an institution with no internet access to be sedated.
Yesterday I read on Medgadget that AccuWeather is selling an iPhone app to alert users of weather-associated health events in 16 locations:
Do you suffer from chronic health challenges? WeatherMD helps you manage multiple conditions from which millions of Americans suffer. WeatherMD helps you determine how weather conditions might impact your conditions and comfort level if you suffer from arthritis, asthma, migraines, allergies, sinus problems and much more. (Medgadget)
Yeah, well maybe. Exactly how or even if weather triggers flare ups of some of these health conditions seems to be an open question. Not if you ask people who suffer from these conditions, of course. It has always seemed to me that my migraines are triggered by weather, but I’ve never really tested it. My son, who is as rabid a skeptic as you’ll find and a professional statistician to boot, swears that his shoulder tells him a day or two before a weather change.
If the influence of weather on joint pain is urban legend, then it is very, very old urban legend. When I was a medical student doing a rotation at one of the most famous orthopedic hospitals in the world. This was more than 40 years ago. We were in a group of 4 students attached to one Attending Physician and making clinical rounds at the hospital. While we were waiting for the next patient we were making small talk and one of my classmates asked the Attending why people complain about joint pain in damp and cold weather. I remember very distinctly his answer: “Really? he said. I never heard that.”
This seems to be another case of a deep chasm between popular and scientist knowledge related to lack of a known or at least agreed upon biological mechanism. I took a quick look at the literature and things don’t seem to be much clearer. A fair number of observational studies for various conditions that seem to confirm a weak association with various weather indices, but no one meteorological measure working even for a single condition like migraines or arthritis.
So this $4 iPhone app will probably make AccuWeather some money but may not help much.
Or maybe it will.