The Quad

Spring fever

Marie Bray, Practicum Writer

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That time of year is approaching! The snow is melting, the temperature is rising and people are slowly coming out of their cooped-up houses. The flowers and trees are blooming, creating the aroma of light scents and fresh air. Kids are starting to run off the buses in order to catch the last few hours of sunlight of the day. You guessed it, spring is here! Which means spring fever is starting to take over the minds and bodies of the cold and restless humans who were itching for the winter season to be over. No, you will not be bedridden; however, you may respond to allergies due to the rising pollen count.

To start off, spring fever used to be bad news. Centuries ago, spring fever, or spring disease, was called scurvy. Scurvy is the lack of vitamin C, and in the 15th to 18th centuries, it was a major threat to life. This mainly affected poorly nourished sailors, but it caused the person’s gums to bleed, gradual teeth loss and opened up previously healed wounds. The name spring fever came about because it occurred during that season and lasted up until the 18th century when it turned into the behavioral and mental change of a human due to weather climate. Of course people’s bodies can still lack in vitamin C, but spring fever is starting to take on a more positive light in today’s society.

As time went by, scientists started measuring spring fever and signs people would show when they’re experiencing it. According to Michael Terman, director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University, “I would say it begins as a rapid and yet unpredictable fluctuating mood and energy state that contrasts with the relative low [of the] winter months that precede it.” For example, if you have the sudden urge for walking or running outside, craving healthier foods, sleeping less, smiling very often or cleaning, they are some signs you are ready to get rid of this cold weather. According to Jordan Brown, who is a junior at West Chester University, “I typically get spring fever around this time of the year when I am over the cold and snow. I want the warmth, sun, and spring apparel to make an appearance. This can affect me because if I have spring fever and just hope that the temperature will begin to rise and the flowers start to bloom. When this doesn’t begin to happen I get moody when it comes to the weather everyday.”

Once the abominable and horrific darkness of the winter solstice comes to an end on March 21, the seemingly ever-elusive spring birds begin chirping again and fill those of us who are working with a sense of purpose to make the most of the newly lengthened day. Daylight saving time is the start of spring fever, especially for people working full-time jobs, because they are not walking out at the end of the day in pitch-black, freezing weather. West Chester University student Nicolette Boyd said, “I definitely get spring fever because I hate the winter. I hate the cold. I hate having to bundle up to go outside and shivering all day long.” A huge cause of this sudden burst of energy is from sunlight. Something about that shining, bright sun gets people energized and happier.

Two chemical changes happen in the body due to sunlight exposure: increase in serotonin and decrease in melatonin. Serotonin has a wide variety of functions in the body, but its primary nickname is the “happy chemical,” because it contributes to overall wellbeing and happiness. Since there is more sunlight, that creates more energy in the body which also leads to people sleeping less. This is also the time where seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, starts to get lifted due to the increase in serotonin levels in the body. On the other hand, melatonin does the opposite; this chemical helps control your sleep and wake cycles. The increased sunshine signals the body to produce less melatonin, which plays an important role in sleep. “Once the weather gets warm, my thoughts are just always happy and I’m just excited about life,” said Spencer McKercher, senior at West Chester University.

As diurnal creatures, humans are programmed to be outdoors while the sun is shining and home in bed at night. This is why melatonin is produced during the dark hours and stops upon exposure to daylight, which is when serotonin levels start to rise in the body. High melatonin levels correspond to long nights and short days, whereas high serotonin levels in the presence of melatonin reflect short nights and longer days. Due to these two chemical changes, people find ways to be outside or keep the happiness flowing. This causes an increase in exercising and sex drive; obstetricians report high rates of unplanned pregnancies in the spring, according to the LA Times, which may be due to seasonal variation in sperm counts or the springtime peak of the “reproductive fuel” that produces testosterone in men and triggers ovulation in women, according to Scientific American.

Another benefit to sunlight, but not too much sun, is the body receiving more vitamin C and vitamin D. Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin through a reaction triggered by exposure to UVB radiation from the sun, unlike other vitamins that must be obtained through food. Aside from vitamin C, a lack of vitamin D is also very harmful for the body. According to Nathaniel Mead of Environmental Health Perspectives, “At least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are now thought to be regulated by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, the active form of the vitamin, including several involved in calcium metabolism and neuromuscular and immune system functioning.” Vitamin C can be obtained through the lotion you use on your skin to help protect from the sun, and vitamin D is synthesized through the sun into your skin. Therefore, the sun plays an active role in helping your body contain these two vitamins. These are two very important vitamins for the body, therefore it is imperative to take supplements or food that is high in these vitamins throughout the winter months.

Did you know almost one-third of Americans are not consuming enough vitamin C? In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps prevent cancers and enhances cancer-fighting drugs, lowers risk of stroke and heart disease, lowers body inflammation, naturally slows aging, boosts immune system and improves physical performance.

Surprisingly, those are only half the benefits, which shows how important and beneficial this vitamin actually is to the body. According to Jayne Leonard, who is a frequent health writer on naturallivingideas.com, there are 10 warning signs of vitamin C deficiency. A majority of the signs are very easy to notice, which are easily bruising, slow wound healing, swelling or bleeding gums, splitting hair and nails, dry skin and poor immune function. Unexplained weight gain, fatigue or depression, painful joints and frequent nose bleeds are also symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. However, these four signs can also be caused by a number of other possibilities.

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D also plays a vital role in the body. Vitamin D helps promote absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. These two nutrients work with each other to make bones stronger. A lack of vitamin D can cause osteoporosis, more susceptibility to broken bones, higher risk of certain cancers and serious mood issues such as depression and anxiety. One way to tell if you lack vitamin D without a blood test is noticing that you are getting sick more often than you normally do. A key function of this vitamin is boosting the immune system, like vitamin C. Another huge issue is fatigue, which can have negative effects on the overall health and quality of life. Other key issues include muscle pain, back pain, bone pain or loss, depression, anxiety and hair loss. Vitamin C and D deficiencies are very similar, only with a few differences. It is vital to make sure the body has enough of these vitamins in order to aid in a properly functioning body.

In a sense, spring fever can actually be a real disease, but in a good way. You are not alone in this seemingly uncontrollable urge to clean the whole house, take a jog outside or even go and smell the newly blossomed flowers and trees. Embrace the spring fever feeling and let the happiness and sunshine fill your body; you deserve it.

Marie Bray is a fourth-year student at majoring in communication studies. ✉ [email protected].

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1 Comment

One Response to “Spring fever”

  1. Marc Sorenson on April 17th, 2018 2:42 pm

    A wonderful article! Here are some additional facts about sunlight that you may not know:
    •75% of melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to sunlight.
    •A 20-year Swedish study showed that women who actively seek the sun have half the risk of death compared with those who avoid the sun.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as those who avoid sun.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
    •Twenty minutes of full-body sun exposure at noon can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D.
    •Sun exposure reduces heart disease risk.
    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood.
    For more information: sunlightinstitute.org

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Spring fever