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Quick Dose: How Climate Change Affects Your Health

Caring for the Planet Is Caring for Yourself

Climate change can influence health in many ways, from amplifying existing issues to creating entirely new ones. Now more than ever, the health of the planet affects your health, too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares that the earth's changing climate can affect many aspects of public health:

  • Asthma and other respiratory issues worsen with air pollution, which can diminish your lung function and increase hospital admissions and emergency department visits.
  • Diarrheal disease and illness may increase as sporadic precipitation patterns and extreme weather increase the likelihood that people will be exposed to a variety of pathogens in water and food supplies.
  • Food insecurity can result from extreme weather and temperatures as well as increasing competition from weeds and pests.
  • Heat stroke and related conditions can be caused by increasingly extreme high temperatures.
  • Mental health and stress-related disorders increase after natural disasters and other extreme weather events.

"The change in environmental conditions may promote the transmission of many waterborne, airborne and foodborne pathogens," explains Melinda R. Ring, MD, an internal medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine and executive director of Osher Center for Integrative Health at Northwestern University. "When you add this on top of the fact that existing malnutrition decreases our immune system's ability to fight off harmful infectious agents, we could see a dramatic rise in infectious and diarrheal disease spread worldwide."

Learn more about climate change and ways you can help protect your own health by supporting the planet's health by visiting epa.gov.

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Melinda R. Ring, MD
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