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The heat of health risks: How the climate crisis is making us sick

When the effects of climate change are discussed, it is usually large fires, droughts and floods. Heat deaths, increased exposure to pollen, asthma, and the spread of tropical diseases such as dengue fever in our part of the world are not a topic of public debate. The fact that global warming can also be accompanied by damage to an individual’s health is still challenging.

In particular, more frequent heat waves can quickly cause devastating damage. For example, around 70,000 deaths in many European countries are attributed to the intense heat wave of the summer of 2003. With temperatures that peaked at 47 degrees, France in particular was hit hard, and Paris exploded alone in one day 40 dead people togetherClinics are hopelessly bypassed.

Experts estimate that heat waves are perhaps the biggest climate-related health risk in Germany as well. As temperatures rise, diseases previously known only from faraway countries come to us. This applies above all to mosquito-borne diseases, says Thomas Jelinek, MD, medical director of the Berlin Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine. «Klimabericht» – Podcast.

“This will certainly be a problem in the near future, because mosquitoes, which were originally more common in tropical and subtropical regions, take advantage of changes in temperature,” Jelinek says. Dengue has increased almost dramatically in the tropics, especially Latin America, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia and has been severely affected in recent years. And we already have radio stations in Europe because mosquitoes migrated to Europe.”

While the occurrence of some new diseases is still an individual issue, high temperatures are also likely to affect allergy sufferers — about 40 percent of the population in Germany, Claudia Tridel Hoffmann reports. She is the Director of Environmental Medicine at the University Hospital Augsburg and is also a guest at the fair.

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» Pollen is increasing due to climate change. Once we have an extension of the pollen season. This means that they fly early in the year and fly later in the year. But then we also see more pollen per day in the pollen season. The pollen itself also becomes more aggressive. This means that the pollen releases more of its inflammation-promoting substances,” says Traidl-Hoffmann.

What is the climate crisis doing to our health, how can we take countermeasures and what are the necessary preparations in the health sector now? We’ll discuss that this week in Climate Report, Spiegel’s new weekly podcast on the climate crisis, which always appears on Tuesdays, on SPIEGEL.de and wherever there are podcasts.

curious? You will now hear our Climate Report.