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The traitorous “Colpo d’aria”

The traitorous “Colpo d’aria”

After ten years of living in Italy some things still surprise me. I recall the first time I’ve heard of “colpo d’aria”. It’s not a karate technique or a game, but a “rare disease” that, to the best of my knowledge, affects only Italians. Literally translated, colpo d’aria means a “whack of air” while culturally translated, it is the draft of air that according to centuries-old popular beliefs will cause a myriad of sicknesses.

We’ll go more into it below as your standard medical sources, be it Mayo Clinic or WebMD, will probably not cover it. You might be thinking this is funny, but sooner or later you will see worried expressions on some old ladies faces, as they realize they are sitting right in the middle of an air current that flows from the doorway to the open window, and you too will probably get a little worried.

The Colpo d’aria is said to affect the following areas:

  • Neck: stiff neck
  • Back: back pain
  • Head: headache
  • Eyes: sore eyes
  • Ears: earache

but may also affect any part of abdomen, especially after heavy meals.

The causes to this malady are many and include:

  • Dressing up with light/summer clothes regardless of weather conditions
  • Being exposed to a cold air flow or to an air conditioner
  • Switching temperature for example from hot to cold and vice versa.

Although this apparently affects mostly Italians, some foreigners have been known to have been affected. If you ever experience a colpo d’aria don’t let it go untreated as it can develop into something more serious. To avoid the colpo d’aria, Italian grandmothers insist you must wear at all times the “maglia della salute”, a cotton or wool t-shirt worn in direct contact with the skin, even in the month of August.

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