woman wearing mask because of serious smog
By IHPL - November 5, 2019

Climate change is nothing new. In fact, human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, land use change, and agriculture have been exacerbating global warming on Earth since 1750.1 The change in climate has led to an increase in air and water temperatures, higher sea levels, and an extensive melting of snow and ice.2 Besides the harmful effects climate change has on the planet, it also has a huge influence on our health. In particular, allergy and asthma are largely affected due to increased temperatures and poor air quality.3

The American Public Health Association reported that asthma leads to 2 million emergency department (ED) visits a year while allergies cause 3.8 million people to miss work or school each year.3 Higher temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses, respiratory diseases and air pollution which especially impacts seniors, children, and those with asthma.4 Children are greatly affected by air quality because they breathe more air than adults and because they are closer to ground-level pollutants due to their shorter height.5 Additionally, 88% of the global disease burden of climate change falls on children under 5 years old.5  

Besides worsening allergy and asthma symptoms, higher temperatures from global warming are also known to increase ED visits in those aged 18 to 64.6 A 2015 study in Rhode Island showed that when the temperature rose to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, ED visits increased by 23.9 percent compared to 75 degree days. Higher temperatures not only worsen air pollution for everyone, but also result in morbidity for the elderly with heart disease because they have a difficult time circulating their blood and keeping cool.6

To address these negative health effects of climate change and to prevent further exacerbation, it’s imperative to implement universal policies to reduce pollution, protect natural resources and expand renewable energy infrastructure.4 Specifically, we need policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through mitigation measures.7 Such policy changes can aid in controlling climate change while also reducing the number of ED visits and missed work/school days.

To learn more about climate change and its negative effects on human health, read our latest Issue Brief here.

Author bio:

Kaitlin Brehaut, MPH

Kaitlin Brehaut, MPH, CHES

Kaitlin Brehaut serves as IHPL’s Health Policy Assistant, providing administrative, programmatic and research support to the Institute team. Ms. Brehaut completed her undergraduate education in Health Science with a concentration in Health Care Management at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB). She then received her Master of Public Health degree at CSUSB. She is also certified as a Health Education Specialist.

For more information, contact Kaitlin at: kbrehaut@llu.edu


  1. https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/climate/faq/what-makes-climate-change 
  2. https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/climate/faq/how-is-climate-changing-and-how-has-it-changed-in-the-past
  3. https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/topics/climate/asthma_allergies.ashx?la=en&hash=3D185CE3CF0356230453313CBB88C5DC1E967E01
  4. http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/49/7/15.1
  5. https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/topics/climate/childrens_health.ashx?la=en&hash=02D821C65EDCAB093A48AD7B101EC73080A216BF
  6. https://thinkprogress.org/climate-change-is-increasing-er-visits-for-diseases-and-injuries-unrelated-to-heat-9ca49293504e/
  7. https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/climate/faq/what-actions-can-be-taken-to-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions