Relationship between air mass type and emergency department visits for different forms of pain across North Carolina and assessing the potential for weather-based pain forecasts
AdvisorFuhrmann, Christopher M.
CommitteeMercer, Andrew E.
Sheridan, Scott C.
Clary, Renee M.
Many people around the world are impacted by some form of bodily pain. Outside factors are thought to help trigger pain, especially in those who have pain-related conditions. When it comes to human health and comfort, understanding the potential external factors that aide in triggering pain is essential. Identifying such factors makes prevention and treatment of pain more feasible. The first part of this study identified how those who suffer from various pain-related conditions (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and general back pain) are impacted by different air mass types. Air mass types and emergency department (ED) visits for pain in select North Carolina counties were collected over a seven-year period to determine a potential relationship. Bootstrapping analyses revealed that Moist Tropical air masses resulted in the highest number of ED visits for all pain conditions examined, while Moist Polar air masses resulted in the fewest. The barometric pressure changes associated with Transitional air masses did not have any significant relationships with pain. The second part of this study sought to determine if regional geographic characteristics impact the relationships found in first part of this study. North Carolina was separated into three geographic sections: Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont Plateau, and Coastal Plain. In the Plateau region, Moist Tropical and Moist Moderate air masses were frequently associated with the highest rates of ED visits for all the conditions examined, while Polar air masses were often associated with the fewest visits. Several conditions exhibited similar relationships with these air mass types in the Mountains, with migraine and fibromyalgia being the exceptions. Very few statistically significant relationships were found in the Coastal region. The last part of this study utilized a survey to identify impacts of weather-based migraine/pain forecasts on human behavior. When provided with different scenarios involving weather-based migraine/pain forecasts, the respondents' decision-making processes were altered. When a hypothetical forecast indicated that the weather was conducive to migraines or other types of pain, many respondents indicated that they would likely take preventative measures (e.g. medication). Additionally, as forecast severity or activity length increased, respondents were less likely to continue with a planned activity.