Spring fever may not be a clinical diagnosis, but it is a physical and psychological phenomenon, say local mind and body experts.
Even Californians, who don’t have to endure subzero temperatures or dig themselves out of blizzards, suffer symptoms such as allergy flare-ups, giddiness and a tendency to grin goofily for no apparent reason at all.
From a medical viewpoint, sneezing and watery eyes are the first signs of spring. “Since we live in a very salubrious climate, spring is a very subtle transitional season,” says Dr. Oscar London, author of “Kills As Few Patients As Possible.” “The most outstanding characteristic is hay fever, especially in Contra Costa County where the pollen count is astronomical.”
Despite revving sinuses into overdrive, spring can also help relieve medical ailments like chronic arthritis. “The warm weather is wonderful for the joints,” London points out.
The increased hours of sunlight also perk up the body’s biochemistry. “There is a seasonal affective disorder,” says Concord psychologist Dr. Gerry Elikofer. “There are people who have kind of a depression which is far more pronounced in the winter months.”
But this time of year people can “see the light at the end of the tunnel after dreary days and pouring down rain,” Elikofer says. “Factor in a kind of sense of hope, maybe a sense of renewal. Things are starting to bloom.” That might explain the giddiness and goofy grins.
Besides, he says, “it’s a time we get to see more skin on men and women. They’re not bundled up, so you can see body shapes.”
“It’s the season of love,” says London, whose name is actually a pseudonym he’s a Berkeley internist who’s had a private practice for 37 years.
“Pollination is a giant mating season. It’s bound to rub off.”
However, caution is recommended. There is a downside to the passions of spring fever, says London, who sees “an unusual number of broken hearts” this time of year.
Spring fever has also been blamed for decreased work productivity. While he calls such statements “propaganda,” London does concede that “the outside is much more enticing than the indoors especially for people who spend their careers looking at monitor screens.”
“I don’t think it’s all that profound and all that deep,” Elikofer says of spring’s allure. “The weather’s (just) starting to play our way.” The season also brings some much-needed periods of relaxation and fun; spring break offers students their first extended time off since the holidays, and summer vacations are fast approaching as well.
“The worst aspect of it is allergies and the best affect is that love is in bloom,” London says. “People who have been depressed, they just feel a lift. I’m totally in favor of spring from a health standpoint.”