Warm Winter Weather and Respiratory Illnesses

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- One day you are in a hat, gloves and scarf -- the next you don't even need a coat.

The wild winter roller-coaster ride we've been on this winter is actually wreaking havoc on respiratory systems.

Nancy Chadwick hasn't been able to shake her bug for two weeks. She blames the weather.

"My great grandmother always said if we have open winters, up and down, warm and cool and warm and cool. We will have a lot of sickness."

Chadwick stopped in to see her physician, Dr. Michael Kilkenny, who is with St. Mary's Medical Center. He said this weather is really rough on the respiratory tract.

"I think we are seeing a lot of the crud," he said with a laugh. He said that is the term for a host of respiratory problems, bronchitis, sinusitis and strep.

"When weather changes, when it gets really cold and then really warm, those are very stressful to the respiratory tract," Kilkenny said. "There are big swings in humidity. A low humidity dries out the respiratory tract. The cold weather drives us inside where the air quality tends not be too good. Then warmer weather, as we say, increases the molds and the humidity goes up and the diseases are going to be more prevalent when there is a higher humidity present."

The doctor said people who already suffer from problems like COPD or asthma will experience more trouble during these humidity swings.

The warm weather also means that mosquitoes aren't in hiding; they are able to breed. If the summer is a wet one, it could be a breeding ground for the West Nile virus.

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