Portland is synonymous with many things: good coffee, food trucks with cuisine from around the world, and a warehouse of books spring to mind immediately. This time of year brings two other standbys: Rudolph’s lighted nose on the iconic “Portland, Oregon” sign, and a seemingly incessant parade of rainstorms. While we are used to dealing with the rain – few of us even own umbrellas! – we are not immune to its effects on our health.
Rain, Rain Go Away – I Don’t Want to Get Sick Today
The Pacific Northwest is notoriously beautiful. We owe all that lush greenery to the rain, which is a pretty regular occurrence from October to April. Or longer. There are usually a few dry days in July or August, at least. As important as the rain is, it can cause a variety of health problems.
Damp and cold weather can help exacerbate muscle aches and pains, especially in individuals who are susceptible to changes in barometric pressure that are associated with incoming storms. You may experience chest or body pain or achy joints and limbs. This is the result of blood vessels contracting in order to preserve heat, which leads to shivering and muscle pain. The best way to prevent this is to dress warmly. Portlanders have figured this out by dressing in layers when venturing out in the fall and winter – okay, and spring – months.
Rainy, cold weather can also trigger sneezing, nasal congestion, and cough in those with mold allergies. Damp weather exacerbates spore growth in fungi, leading to these and other allergy symptoms in susceptible individuals. Limit outdoor activities, especially in areas like forests, to help reduce exposure. Invest in a dehumidifier for problematic areas such as basements, and take care of leaky pipes and other sources of water intrusion as soon as possible.
Congestion isn’t confined to the nasal passages. It can affect the ears, as well, leading to itchiness, a feeling of pressure or fullness and temporary hearing loss. Blockages in the ear canals can cause swelling and infection. Protect your ears from the cold and damp by wearing scarves, hoods or ski caps outdoors, especially when those east winds are howling through the Gorge.
Short of moving to a warmer, drier climate, there’s no way to avoid the rain in Portland. But do you really want to give up a bag of hot, fresh Pip’s donuts or a steaming bowl of ramen for the desert climate of Phoenix?
We didn’t think so.
For more tips on staying healthy during our incessant rainy season, talk to your Portland ear, nose and throat specialist today.