World Asthma Day: How Climate Change Impacts Asthma And How Asthmatics Can Protect Themselves


Climate change and the resulting global warming have caused a worldwide increase in diseases, including deadly and water-borne illnesses. Asthmatic patients are most affected due to climate change because of air pollution, exposure to pollens and dust, extreme weather events and displacement and migration.

Therefore, asthmatics must take certain measures to protect themselves from climate change impacts. 

More about impact of climate change on asthma

Climate change increases exposure to air pollution, pollen and other allergens, and exacerbates extreme weather events, all of which can worsen asthma symptoms.

Air pollution effect on asthma

Vehicle emissions, industrial exhaust and wildfires can lead to air pollution, which can trigger asthma symptoms.

“Climate change can lead to increased air pollution, which can trigger asthma symptoms and exacerbate existing asthma. Air pollution can come from many sources, including vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and wildfires,” Dr Shahid Shafi, Consultant Internal Medicine, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, told ABP Live. 

Effect of climate change on eyes of asthmatics

Asthma not only affects the lungs, but also impacts the eyes. The disease can result in inflammation of the eyes. Since the eyes are not immune to the effects of climate change, asthmatic issues can suffer from allergic conjunctivitis due to pollutants and allergens exacerbating pre-existing conditions.
“The eyes are not immune to the effects of climate change, as environmental factors can exacerbate pre-existing eye conditions or cause new ones to develop. In the case of asthma, the inflammation in the lungs can lead to inflammation of the eyes and surrounding tissues, causing a condition known as allergic conjunctivitis,” Dr. Ajay Sharma Chief Medical Director of Eye-Q, a chain of eye hospitals in India.

Allergic conjunctivitis is an inflammatory response of the conjunctiva, the tissue that covers the inside of eyelids, and the white part of the eyeball, to an allergen. Conjunctivitis is characterised by intense itching of eyes and an urge to rub them, watery mucus discharge, red eyes, swollen eyelids, runny or itchy nose, and sneezing. 

Allergens and irritants such as pollen, dust, mold, animal dander, and dust mites can cause allergic conjunctivitis.

“People with asthma are more likely to develop allergic conjunctivitis, as their bodies are already in a state of heightened inflammation,” Dr Sharma said.

He explained that climate change is exacerbating the problem of asthma and allergic conjunctivitis. This is because due to Earth’s rising temperatures, pollen seasons are becoming longer and more intense, leading to increased exposure to allergens. 

Since climate change causes changes in plant growth and flowering times, pollen seasons are longer and pollen counts become higher. “This increases exposure to allergens and triggers asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals,” Dr Shafi said.

Also, air pollution from industrialisation and transportation can also aggravate asthma and allergic conjunctivitis symptoms, Dr Sharma said.

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Effect of extreme weather events on asthmatics

Climate change-induced extreme weather events such as heat waves, hurricanes and wildfires can worsen asthma symptoms by leading to increased air pollution, mold growth, and exposure to environmental irritants.

“Climate change can lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as heat waves, hurricanes, and wildfires. These events can worsen asthma symptoms by causing increased air pollution, mold growth, and exposure to environmental irritants,” Dr Shafi said.

Effect of migration on asthmatics

Due to climate change, many people are forced to migrate. Since they are exposed to new environmental triggers upon displacement and migration, asthma symptoms may be triggered or exacerbated.

“Climate change can also lead to displacement and migration of people, which can exacerbate asthma by exposing people to new environmental triggers and disrupting access to healthcare,” Dr Shafi said.

How asthmatics can protect themselves from the effects of climate change

According to experts, the effects of climate change are complex and multifactorial, and hence, it is important for asthmatics to be aware of these risks and take measures to minimise exposure to environmental triggers. 

“Measures to avoid environmental triggers include avoiding outdoor activities during high pollen days, using air filters, and following local air quality advisories. Additionally, addressing climate change through policy changes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical for protecting public health, including the health of individuals with asthma,” Dr Shafi suggested.

Asthmatics should also protect their eyes through preventative measures. These include avoiding exposure to allergens, using air filters and purifiers, and practising good hygiene, such as washing hands and face regularly, Dr Sharma said.
If you have asthma and experience symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, such as red, itchy, or watery eyes, it is important to seek medical attention. Your eye doctor can help determine the best course of treatment, which may include eye drops, oral medications, or other therapies,” Dr Sharma added.

Since climate change and asthma are closely linked, and both can impact the eyes, it is important to take steps to protect the eyes from the effects of environmental factors and seek medical attention if necessary.
Dr Sharma concluded that by taking care of the eyes, one can help maintain their overall health and well-being.

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