Doctors Say Climate Change Is Already Harming People’s Health in This State

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 27, 2024

Doctors in Maine have claimed that climate change is already negatively harming people’s health throughout the state, thanks to an increase in heat-related illnesses and diseases spread by insects.

Many studies and experts have long warned that climate change could soon begin to affect regular Americans. Now, this latest report indicates that this harm could already be underway.

Doctors Are Treating Climate-Related Illnesses

A new survey of Maine Medical Association (MMA) members, conducted by Colby College researchers, reveals how doctors throughout the state have grown worried over climate change.

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According to these doctors and health professionals, they’re already seeing climate change influence the health of their patients.

Seeing Early Changes

The report, which was published in the Maine Policy Review, explains that doctors and healthcare professionals are the first to see health changes as a result of climate change.

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Gail Carlson, the lead author of the report and an assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College, wrote, “Health professionals are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and have important roles to play because they directly observe and respond to these health impacts.”

Health Issues in the United States

The Maine doctors surveyed explained that they’re worried about growing health issues throughout the state, thanks to climate change.

A doctor with a notepad talking to a patient in a hospital.

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About 78% of the doctors polled stated that they believe climate change threatens their patients’ health. Only 8% said no, while 10% said maybe and 4% said they weren’t sure.

Current Impacts on Patients

Many doctors also revealed that they’re already seeing climate change affect their patients’ health. About 38% of doctors explained that they’re seeing these health impacts.

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Meanwhile, two-thirds surveyed stated that they were either moderately or extremely concerned about these current health impacts on their patients.

An Increase in Heat-Related Illnesses

While many negative health issues can arise thanks to climate change, officials have stated that heat-related illnesses remain the most direct health issue from a rise in temperatures.

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These illnesses, such as heatstroke, can severely harm a patient’s overall health. As temperatures continue to rise in Maine and throughout the United States, cases of heatstroke could increase.


Diseases Spread by Animals

Health officials have also warned that climate change could raise cases of illness thanks to ongoing explosions of insect and animal populations.

A close-up of a tick on a person’s hand.

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For example, Maine has seen an increase in tick populations thanks to high temperatures. Ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme disease that can negatively impact one’s health.


Asthma and Allergies

Doctors have also seen a rise in asthma and allergies in their patients, which can also be linked back to a rise in temperatures.

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Health experts have claimed that extremely hot weather can cause an increase in allergy symptoms, thanks to more severe pollen being found in the air.


Severe Illnesses

Maine doctors have also seen an increase in more severe illnesses, such as COPD, which can cause patients to have a tough time breathing regularly.

A close-up of an asthma machine mask and medicine.

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Cases of lung and heart disease can also be exacerbated because of climate change and a rise in temperatures.


Lack of Air Conditioning

Many healthcare officials have announced their worry that certain living conditions can further harm their patients as temperatures rise around the state — and around the country.

A close-up of a smart thermostat in someone’s home.

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Doctors have seen cases of aging or sick patients with heat stress, as they live in facilities or homes that do not have air conditioning, or do not have proper ways to keep the heat at bay.


Mental Health Issues

Experts have also noticed a huge jump in mental health-related problems in their patients, which has been tied back to climate change. For the most part, many of these specific issues are almost exclusively found in younger generations.

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Many younger patients are anxious and worried about the rise in temperatures that they’re seeing every year. As a result, this has led to a steady increase in mental health problems.


Health Issues Throughout the United States

While this recent survey only polled doctors in Maine, health experts around the country have sounded the alarm about illnesses spreading because of climate change.

A doctor holding a tablet talking to a patient across a desk.

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For example, Houston, Texas has seen severe flooding issues in recent weeks. As a result of this flooding, mosquitoes have thrived — and could potentially spread the West Nile virus.