Thursday, July 10, 2014

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s the connection between climate change, health and disasters?

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how climate change will be bad for health and lead to more disasters. How could that happen?

Yes, you’ve heard right. In fact, climate change is already having an impact on health and weather-related disasters. Let’s take a look at some of the health effects that you may or may not realize are caused or made worse by climate change.

• Climate change causes greater extremes in temperatures:
Heat not only feels uncomfortable, it can make you very sick or kill you. You may already know about heat exhaustion or a more deadly version, known as heat stroke. However, did you know that heat can increase blood pressure, aggravate heart disease and cause premature labor? Extreme cold can also cause frostbite and hypothermia.

• Climate change causes the spread of diseases:
Warmer and wetter climate allows some diseases and the insects that carry them to thrive in more regions and countries. West Nile virus, dengue and Chikungunya are all spread by mosquitoes, and Lyme disease is spread by ticks. As the U.S. climate changes, these diseases will affect more and more people. 

• Climate change causes more drought, flooding and food and water shortages:
Hotter temperatures, as well as too much or too little rainfall, are causing food crops to fail. This could lead to increased prices for basic food items. Drought can pollute our drinking water by causing toxins in the water to become more concentrated. Floods cause bacteria and viruses that make us sick to enter our water supply.

You can help yourself, your family and your animal companions be prepared by visiting APHA’s Get Ready website, which has a lot of helpful information.You may also want to read the new National Climate Assessment, which has a whole chapter on climate and human health.

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