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Climate-Related Health Impacts

The climate can negatively impact human health in many ways. A changing climate can lead to environmental conditions that increase exposure to allergens, viral or bacterial disease, and hotter temperatures. Such consequences include respiratory illness, food- and vector-borne disease, and heat waves.
An increase in temperatures, causing milder winters, and less precipitation, can result in environmental conditions that negatively affect health. Such conditions can foster the growth and abundance of allergens, which affect respiratory health (especially for those who are already susceptible to irritants). People with existing heart conditions may be more susceptible to heat-related disease such as heat stroke. Vector and food-borne diseases could increase with rising temperatures and longer warm seasons because these conditions create more hospitable habitats for vectors, like mosquitos and ticks. The climate can also have impacts on air quality, water quality, and food production and safety.
Respiratory Illness
Two forms of respiratory illness that cause concern are asthma and allergies. Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and can make it difficult to breathe. There are a variety of environmental exposures that trigger asthma attacks, such as outdoor and indoor air pollution, allergens, and viral infections, such as pneumonia. For more information about asthma, see the Asthma topic page.

Allergies occur due to the immune system overreacting to certain environmental triggers. In terms of respiratory allergic diseases, allergens are usually inhaled through the nose and into the lungs. Common allergens include pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and dust in the house. There are two forms of respiratory allergic diseases: allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.

Vector-Borne Disease
A vector is any organism that carries disease and transfers that disease to another organism. Animals, and in particular, arthropods (such as mosquitoes, flies, and mites), are the usual vectors that cause vector-borne disease. Such diseases include dengue, Lyme disease, malaria, and West Nile Virus. Warmer temperatures may have an affect on the proliferation of vector populations by decreasing the time for a vector to develop, resulting in larger vector populations. Greater vector populations have the potential to infect more human hosts.

Heat-Related Disease
Within the United States, heat waves are currently the most deadly weather event, causing more deaths than tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods combined. The two most common heat-related diseases are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat illness, which occurs when an individual is exposed to high temperatures for multiple days without an adequate intake of fluids. On the other hand, heat stroke is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage and death. Once an individual has developed heat stroke, the ability to cool the body has failed.
Individuals with certain medical conditions or older age are at greater risk for negative health effects due to climate effects:
  • People with high blood pressure and the elderly are at higher risk for heat-related disease
  • People who do not have access to adequate housing or living in unsanitary conditions are at higher risk for vector-borne diseases
  • Education is key to understand how to avoid exposure to common asthma and allergy triggers
  • Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related disease
  • To prevent vector-borne disease, stay safe outdoors by wearing proper protective clothing, avoiding high grasses and brushy spots, using insect repellent, and avoiding wild animals
  • Ensure compliance with state and federal regulations to keep Utah's food supply safe


Hospitalizations for Heat Stress

Emergency Department Visits for Heat Stress

Number of Lyme Disease Cases, Statewide

Crude Rates of Lyme Disease, Statewide

The Utah EPHT Network receives climate-related health data from the Bureau of Epidemiology and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) from the Office of Public Health Assessment.

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The links listed below redirect you to health assessments that have been conducted in Utah that are relevant to climate. The Utah APPLETREE program at the Utah Department of Health is responsible for evaluating and responding to environmental public health issues in Utah. For more information, please visit the Utah APPLETREE website.

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Thu, 30 June 2022 4:24:06 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Tue, 16 Jun 2020 15:00:11 MDT