Climate Change: How It Can Affect People with Allergies and Asthma
According to the World Health Organization, climate change is one of the biggest global health threats of this century. Many people don’t realize that climate change can also affect those with allergies and asthma.
Rising temperatures, increased air pollution, and longer pollen seasons can all have an effect on the symptoms of people with allergies and asthma.
In this article, we’ll explore climate change and asthma and how individuals can manage their asthma now and into the future.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change refers to any large shifts in temperatures and weather patterns over a long period of time. While some of these shifts are natural, the main driver of climate change since the 1800s has been human activity. Burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas), manufacturing, and agriculture all produce heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide which trap heat in the atmosphere.
How Does Climate Change Affect Asthma?
There are a few main ways that climate change affects asthma.
Because climate change can lead to longer pollen seasons and higher temperatures, this can be especially bad for people with asthma. As temperature rises, air pollution also increases, making it difficult for those with asthma to breathe.
The climate change-induced increase in ground-level ozone has been shown to reduce lung capacity, increase asthma symptoms and worsen overall air quality. Ozone is a powerful lung irritant and can trigger asthma attacks.
Warmer temperatures also make it easier for mold, dust mites, and other air pollutants to thrive, which can worsen asthma symptoms. Pollen counts tend to be higher for longer periods of time in regions with climate change. This means that people with asthma have a greater risk of being exposed to allergens and developing asthma attacks.
Similarly, extended or shortened seasons due to climate change can have an effect on asthma. For instance, climate change may cause warmer winters and earlier springs. This could lead to longer and more severe allergy seasons, triggering increased asthma symptoms due to higher levels of allergens in the air for a longer period of time.
In addition, climate change has been linked to an increase in severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods and heat waves that can cause disruption for those with asthma.
Climate change is also causing more frequent and intense droughts, which can lead to wildfires that create smoke-filled air that makes it difficult for those with asthma to breathe. The combination of heat and air pollution can also worsen asthma symptoms.
Climate Change and Asthma: How to Protect Yourself
It is clear that climate change has a direct effect on asthma, exacerbating existing conditions and creating new health risks for those with the condition. Research on asthma and climate change has found that the best way to protect yourself is to reduce your exposure to climate-related triggers.
Reducing exposure to air pollution and pollen can help lessen asthma symptoms. This includes staying indoors in air-conditioned environments during air quality alerts and high pollen days, changing the filter regularly if using an air conditioner, and washing exposed skin and clothes when returning from outdoors.
Additionally, you can reduce mold exposure by avoiding damp indoor environments and thoroughly drying the area after a flood or leak.
Finally, it is important to stay informed on climate change and asthma-related research to ensure that you are taking all necessary steps to protect yourself. With climate change only projected to worsen, understanding the connection between climate change and asthma can help you reduce your asthma triggers and lessen the risk of exacerbations.
Preparing for Allergy, Asthma, and Climate Change
As most asthmatics know, many things are outside of our control. While you may not be able to change climate conditions, you can still take steps to reduce your risk of asthma exacerbations due to climate-related factors. Here are some tips for how you can best prepare for climate change and allergies:
- Monitor pollen and other allergen levels in your local climate. Knowing the forecasted levels of allergens, such as mold, pollen, and dust mites, can help you plan ahead. This can be especially important if climate change is expected to bring more allergens into your area.
- Reduce your exposure to outdoor allergens by limiting outdoor activities during high-allergen days or times of day.
- Make sure you have a good air filtration system in your home to reduce allergens inside.
- Stay informed about climate change and air pollution trends, as they can have an impact on asthma-related symptoms.
- Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about climate change and how it may affect your asthma or allergies. Optomizing your asthma control plan is an excellent way to manage your asthma in a changing climate.
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