Like an elephant on your chest. Like breathing through a straw. These are ways asthma sufferers describe how their constricted airways feel.

Child using inhaler

Families and society are constricted as well, by the enormous costs of this chronic lung disease. Some parents have to quit their jobs to care for asthmatic children, who are also more likely to struggle in school. And climate change is causing more, and more severe, cases of asthma.

Ragweed, a powerful trigger, is spreading and becoming more potent. In northern areas, the rising number of frost-free days also means longer ragweed seasons. It’s even an issue in poor urban areas, where asthma already occurs at higher rates.

Air pollution from vehicles is also a major trigger of debilitating and even life-threatening asthma… and a particular concern because it adds to climate change, further intensifying the problem. Sylvia Brandt of the University of Massachusetts studies the links between – and solutions to – climate change and asthma.

BRANDT: “More green energy production, for example, has the benefit not only of reducing climate change gases, but also in reducing things that will trigger asthma attacks.”

Brandt says if science and policy can address the root causes of climate change, we’ll all breathe easier.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Evan Lowenstein.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Climate change threatens health
National Climate Assessment health chapter
Breathe easy: Putting a price tag on pollution

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...