Quantcast
Climate

9 Ways Climate Change Is Making Us Sick

Yes, climate change is causing hurricanes, droughts and making sea level rise. But it’s also making us sick. Illnesses related to a warming planet are on the rise. Here are nine specific maladies related to climate change that could be affecting you or those you love and five ways for dealing with them.

Illnesses related to a warming planet are on the rise. Photo credit: Shutterstock

1. Asthma and respiratory ailments

Asthma is increasing across the U.S. Between 2001 and 2009, reports the Centers for Disease Control, the number of patients diagnosed with asthma rose by 4.3 million. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences and of many work absences as well. Asthma attacks are often triggered by pollen. As it turns out, plants are starting their pollination season earlier and it lasts longer. That doesn’t bode well for anyone who suffers from any number of respiratory ailments.

2. Allergies

In addition to asthma, the number of people suffering from hay fever and other pollen allergies is also on the rise. There are two reasons for this. First, the range where goldenrod and other plants that release heavy amounts of pollen is increasing as global warming makes parts of the country more hospitable to plants that used to be contained by colder temperatures. Second, as mentioned above, the sheer amount of pollen that plants are creating is increasing. Trees are the most common trigger for spring hay fever, reports the National Wildlife Federation. With spring arriving 10 to 14 days earlier than it did just 20 years ago, pollination is starting earlier. Hay fever is, too.

3. Heart disease and stroke

Extreme temperature changes, plus high particulate matter from burning coal and gasoline, can increase the risk for heart attack or stroke. The risk is particularly great if you live in an urban area with high levels of outdoor air pollution.

4. Poison ivy

Climate change is bad for you, but very good for poison ivy. As a result of higher global temperatures, poison ivy leaves are getting bigger, the vines are getting hairier and the oil in the leaves that makes you itch is getting more potent.

5. Dengue fever

As warmer bands of climate take hold, mosquitoes carrying dangerous dengue fever are moving north. Consequently, a disease that was once restricted to the tropics is starting to show up in the southern U.S.. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that two types of mosquitoes capable of transmitting dengue fever can now be found across at least 28 states.

Read page 1

6. Lyme disease

Diseases carried by ticks are spreading, as well, especially in the northeast. “In Maine, which had been considered less hospitable to ticks because of its colder climate, crews tapping maple trees are seeing more of them than ever,” says Ted St. Amand, an entomologist and district manager for Atlantic Pest Solutions. “There never was much concern because deer tick was not that prevalent inland from the coast,” St. Amand said. “Now it’s everywhere.”

A female American dog tick.Researchers say there’s been an explosion in American dog tick populations this year. Photo credit: Dr. Gary D. Alpert/Harvard University

7. Other infectious diseases

Malaria and cholera are not big threats in the U.S., fortunately. But in the wake of extreme weather events, various waterborne pathogens can cause diarrhea and may contaminate water supplies. These pathogens reproduce more quickly in warmer conditions as well.

8. Heat stroke

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and even death. Senior citizens may be particularly susceptible, particularly those who do not have air conditioning.

9. Mental health and stress

Extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts are putting tremendous pressure on people, who worry about their basic survival. Stress, anxiety, depression, even post-traumatic stress disorder can occur when someone goes through a harrowing.

What Can We Do?

1. Cover up

Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when you’re out in the yard. The same protection will work against poison ivy and ticks when you’re weeding or taking a hike in the woods. Protect bare skin by spraying insect repellent proven to be effective against both ticks and mosquitoes.

2. Pay attention to air quality alerts

Most cities will issue a “Code Orange” or “Code Red” or “Code Purple” to alert citizens to stay inside. You can see the complete guide to air quality alerts here.

3. Get the medical attention you need

Your doctor should prescribe the proper treatment for asthma, heart disease, allergies and other physical ailments. A therapist or psychiatrist can help treat anxiety or depression related to your climate concerns. Be prepared by having emergency medication on hand before you need it.

4. Stay indoors or in a cool location when temperatures rise

If you have family, friends or neighbors who are suffering from the heat, help them get to a community cooling center, where they can get some relief, water and medical care if they need it.

5. Use less energy and support public policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels

Shifting to renewable sources of energy like solar and wind is the most important way to reduce the build-up of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change in the first place. In the short term, monitor your health and well-being closely. In the long term, we will all be victims of climate change one way or another unless we cut back on the energy we use and develop strong national public policies that decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and boost our use of solar energy and wind power.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

What You Need to Know About Ticks

Is Going Vegan the Solution to Climate Change?

84,000 Chemicals on the Market, Only 1% Have Been Tested for Safety

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
Bob Berg / Getty Images

How Summer and Diet Damage Your DNA, and What You Can Do

By Adam Barsouk

Today, your body will accumulate quadrillions of new injuries in your DNA. The constant onslaught of many forms of damage, some of which permanently mutates your genes, could initiate cancer and prove fatal. Yet all is not doomed: The lives we lead determine how well our cells can handle this daily molecular erosion.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme / Maxime Aliaga

300+ Mammal Species Could Still Be Discovered, Scientists Say

By Sara Novak

You can't protect an animal that you don't know exists. Tapanuli orangutans, for example, are found only in the Tapanuli region of Sumatra; they were only identified as a species last year, when scientists found them to be genetically different from other Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. With just 800 left, this newly discovered species is the most critically endangered ape.

It's hard to believe that with only seven great ape species on the planet—Tapanuli, Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, eastern and western gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos—a species could have gone undiscovered until 2017. But, in fact, new research shows that many mammals still fly under the radar.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
An iceberg is threatening to break and flood the village of Innarsuit. Karl Petersen / Getty Images

Giant Iceberg Threatens Tiny Greenland Village

Add another potential disaster to the climate change hazard list: iceberg caused tsunamis.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
A Kemp's ridley sea turtle like this one was found strangled by a beach chair Saturday. EPA

World’s Most Endangered Sea Turtle Found Strangled by Beach Chair

An extremely endangered sea turtle was found dead on a Fort Morgan, Alabama beach Saturday, strangled by an abandoned beach chair, the Miami Herald reported Sunday.

The turtle's death was documented by a series of Facebook posts by the Fort Morgan branch of Alabama sea turtle conservation group Share the Beach.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
White-tailed deer flee in a nighttime photograph. George Shiras

People Are So Annoying That Animals Are Becoming More Nocturnal

By Jason Bittel

It's official: Animals around the world are sick of our sh . . . enanigans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Garlic mustard flower. Gary J. Wood / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

10 Edible Weeds Likely Growing in Your Yard

By Brian Barth

You work so hard on your vegetable garden, primping and pruning to the point of exhaustion each spring. One of the biggest chores, of course, is weeding. But in doing so, you might be throwing away valuable produce.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pixabay

If Meditation Is Not Your Thing, Try a Walk in the Woods

By Karin Klein

There are times when I don't know what to do with myself. I feel at odds with the world, irritated by the people in it, in a funk about myself and what I'm achieving or, rather, not achieving, overwhelmed by the obstacles and complications of life. Happiness seems like an entirely elusive state of being.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!