What will we call Iceland 100 years from now? Mudland?
Whatever the triggers, there’s no doubt that glaciers around the globe are melting at an astounding rate. But northern landscapes aren’t the only thing that’s changing because of shifting climate patterns; hotter, drier, colder, wetter — it all depends on where you are. As sea level and temperatures rise, so do health challenges, particularly tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, as well as repercussions from extreme heat, such as cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
It’s no wonder a poll by Yale University and George Mason University found that 69% of Americans are “somewhat worried” about climate change, and 29% are “very worried.”
Fortunately, there are positive steps you can take to protect your health.
PROTECTION FROM MOSQUITO-, TICK- AND FLEA-BORNE DISEASES
Disease cases from mosquito, tick and flea bites tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016.
>> Mosquitoes: In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports on 2,291 cases of domestic arboviral disease — that’s infections caused by a group of viruses spread to people through mosquitoes and ticks. Ninety-six percent were for West Nile virus.
>> Your steps: As temperatures rise and the number of days that mosquitoes are likely to dive-bomb you increases, it becomes ever more important to remove all standing water in your yard, around potted plants, birdbaths, in low-lying areas on soil or pavement. Skeeters can reproduce in the smallest pool.
You also want to use repellent whenever you’re headed outside. Consumer Reports says the most effective products contain 15-30% DEET, 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE).
Want to know which are the mosquito hot-spot days in your locale? Go to climatecentral.org and search for Mosquito Disease Danger Days.
>> Ticks (and fleas) are a growing problem, too: The CDC says, “Tick-borne diseases increasingly threaten the health of people in the United States.” Ticks not only carry Lyme disease, but seven new tick-borne germs that can cause illness have been identified in the U.S.
>> Your steps: To protect yourself when outside, use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing; wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants; treat boots, pants, socks and tents with permethrin, or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear; take steps to control ticks and fleas on pets.
PROTECTION FROM HEAT-RELATED HEALTH PROBLEMS
With September average temperatures in Phoenix hitting 100 for a high and 75 for a low, and Houston’s hitting a high of 90 and a low of 70, there are lots of folks who need to make sure they stay safe.
>> Heat exhaustion and heatstroke: When it gets steamy, these conditions can strike anyone who overextends time outside without taking sufficient shady breaks and drinking cool liquids. Heat and alcohol are a risky mix, too!
>> Your steps: For folks with heart disease, any time the temperature and humidity are above 70, it’s smart to delay your outdoor workout (the one-two punch is especially powerful). Be aware that certain medications, like beta blockers and diuretics, can make it harder to handle the heat.
>> Respiratory challenges: Between 1995 and 2011 warmer temperatures have caused the U.S. pollen season to lengthen by 11 to 27 days. Dr. Mike knows this all too well — he never used to sneeze before Aug. 15 or after Sept. 15, and now he’s often sneezing until October.
>> Your steps: If you’ve already been diagnosed with asthma or COPD, make sure you follow your long-term control regimen to a “T.” On high-ozone days, avoid strenuous outdoor activity. With asthma, always travel with a rescue inhaler in case of an emergency.
>> Bonus steps: The direct cost of climate change is estimated to run between $2 billion and $4 billion per year by 2030. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and push back against the high cost (literally and figuratively) of climate change.
1. Bike/walk more, drive less.
2. Use glass, not plastic, whenever possible.
3. Go vegetarian or almost-atarian.
4. Unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to email@example.com.