Watch above: Dr. Samir Gupta explains how the weather can affect your health.
TORONTO – Most people associate climate change with rising temperatures and extreme weather.
But climate change can also impact public health.
“From a public health point of view, there are quite a few things that we worry about,” Global News medical contributor Dr. Samir Gupta said. “People don’t necessarily think about the effects on health and the economic costs of those health effects.”
Gupta said rising temperatures can affect plant growth and pollination patterns leading to, in Canada, an earlier start to allergy season and more ragweed in the fall.
And vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease or West Nile Virus are on the rise as insects begin to move north.
But rising temperatures can also have a direct affect on people’s health as well.
“Last year in Toronto about 120 people died as a result of heat waves,” Gupta said. “Particularly we worry about people with chronic conditions and the elderly.”
Top Five medical conditions affected by the weather:
Asthma is a disease of “twitchy airways,” Gupta said, where irritants like cold air can aggravate the condition.
“My asthma patients will tell me that for example, if they go for a run on a cold day their asthma will flare up,” Gupta said.
Rhinitis is a common chronic condition where people have a stuffy or runny nose, Gupta said.
“Cold air and also changes in humidity and barometric pressure can actually increase nasal congestion in people with non-allergic rhinitis,” Gupta said.
Despite somewhat conflicting evidence, Gupta suggests some patients report worsening symptoms with changes in the weather.
This is a common concern. Gupta says his patients often tell him their “joints can predict the weather.”
“More and more we have data now that suggest things like stiffness, pain, even things like mobility may be predicted by high humidity, high barometric pressure, or low temperature in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and even osteoarthritis.”
5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is the most common smoking related lung disease, Gupta said.
“These kind of patients will be in the emergency room more on hot and humid days,” Gupta said. “There is also some data that suggest huge temperature fluctuations like we’ve had recently, can be associated with increased mortality in COPD.”
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