Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. This happens when your body produces too much uric acid, or your kidneys don’t filter out enough. The acid then forms tiny, sharp crystals in and around the joints, leading to the characteristic inflammation, swelling and pain.
Gout is renowned for being extremely painful, with one Guardian journalist describing it as “one of the most excruciatingly painful things that it can ever be your misfortune to encounter”. If you’re one of the 1-2% of people who suffer from gout in the UK, you‘ll know that unfortunately this is no exaggeration.
This illness can be particularly debilitating because of the joints affected. Gout is commonly found in the toes, ankles and knees, making walking and doing even small tasks like putting on your shoes feel impossible.
Can weather affect gout?
Diet is commonly cited as the main trigger for gout. In fact, it used to be known as “the rich man’s disease” because it was linked to more expensive foods like red meat. However, we now know that the weather can affect gout, too.
One study, led by Dr Neogi at the Boston School of Medicine, found that gout flare-ups are up to 43% more likely in temperatures above 21°C than 10-15°C. On the other hand, temperatures of 0-3°C appeared to decrease risk by up to 40%.
The effect of warmer temperatures is backed up by a further study, presented to the American College of Rheumatology. The researchers concluded that high temperatures and humidity increase the risk of gout attacks because less uric acid is removed from the body.
However, a Professor of Clinical Medicine at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College says that it’s not quite so clear if and how gout is affected by cold temperatures. He notes that the big toe is most commonly affected by gout, possibly because the temperature at your extremes is lowest. However, gout is much less common in other extremities like the finger joint, and it’s not reported more in cold climates.
What can we do to minimise gout pain?
With gout, prevention is much, much better than cure. Studies define the “hazard period” for a gout attack as one or two days before symptoms flare up. This is the time to take action in order to minimise the severity of the attack.
Thankfully, the Weather Flare app can help you to be prepared. Because hot, humid weather is a trigger, Weather Flare can help by notifying you when these weather conditions are approaching, giving you the chance to take the necessary action. When you know that a weather-related flare-up is on the forecast, you can follow these simple steps to fight back:
Avoid things that are known to make gout worse, like alcohol, fizzy drinks, shellfish and red meat.
Make an extra effort to drink lots of fluids, as dehydration is more common in hotter weather and can make gout worse.
Carry around a water bottle and fan when you leave the house.
Use a home dehumidifier to keep your living environment free of humidity.
Weather Flare means you’ll always know about potential weather triggers, even when you don’t have the time or energy to monitor the weather forecast. In an upcoming version of the app, you’ll also be able to add your own individual triggers to receive personalised notifications and advice. We can’t control the weather, but with a little preparation, we can stop weather-related pain bringing our days to a halt!
We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the Weather Flare app. We’re working on making it as useful as possible for you, and we’d love your feedback on what’s working well and what needs improvement. Download the beta Weather Flare app now on iOS and Android to get started!
Help us crowdfund to finish building the Weather Flare app. The finished version will learn how the weather is affecting the user’s condition/s and produce a personalised weather forecast showing good, bearable and tricky days. https://igg.me/at/weatherflare/x#/