Extreme weather and asthma: what does the study say?

If you’ve ever suffered from asthma, you know this: cold, damp air increases the risk of asthma attacks.

Now, a study shows that patients’ airways are also more likely to contract during high temperatures or heavy downpours. In other words, climate change will exacerbate the problem.

This study mainly proves three points:

  • Hot summer days are more likely to cause asthma problems than other weather conditions.
  • Children are especially sensitive to extreme weather conditions.
  • Climate change has increased the risk of asthma by bringing more extreme weather.

In the summer, when the heat or rain pours, emergency rooms are crowded with asthmatics. A significant number of them are children. That’s according to a study by the university of Maryland health care institute.

Extreme weather may be associated with asthma patients.
Extreme weather may be associated with asthma patients.

Extreme weather and asthma patients

Amir Sapkota, who studies the link between climate change and public health, analyzed 115,923 case data for a work: all hospitalizations for asthma from 2000 to 2012 in the state of Maryland.

He noticed that the number of patients in midsummer was higher than usual. In heat periods, nearly a quarter (23 percent) more asthma patients came to the hospital, after heavy rains it was 11 percent more. Children and adolescents were particularly affected.

The environmental scientist warns: “Everything indicates that extreme weather events will increase in the future. And our research shows that the risk of an asthma attack also increases. We need to take this into account when planning health responses to climate change.”

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Amir Sapkota and colleagues suspect that the cause of the increase in asthma in summer is higher air pollution, for example due to ozone.

The shortness of breath after heavy rainfall could be due to the release of particularly large quantities of pollen: heavy rain swells them, bursts them on the ground and emits a high concentration of allergens.

Amir Sapkota’s figures, published in the journal “Environmental Health”, refer only to the US state of Maryland.

However, they can be transferred to Europe and Germany because the conditions are similar and the traces of climate change can also be felt here.

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