Dr. Suresh Seshan – Hancock Internal Medicine

Dr. Suresh Seshan, internist
Hancock Internal Medicine

The smoke from the Canadian wildfires seems to indicate the start of an increase in climate change–related health concerns. How will we combat them?

We are already seeing other effects from global warming and climate change. The warmer season has been lasting longer, about 20 days or so, especially in the northern latitudes. And that warmer weather obviously leads to new and different kinds of vegetation, which increases the pollen count. And worse, we’re seeing a higher amount of immunogenic pollen. The proteins in immunogenic pollen cause more allergies. So not only is there more pollen in the air, but the quality of all that pollen is getting worse. And, as you point out, there are the less-direct consequences of climate change, too. Wildfires have particulate matter that can worsen respiratory symptoms. The incidence of floods is also increasing, which causes more mold to spread.

To treat the health conditions that arise from such new realities, we will have to start administering medication or providing treatment earlier in the allergy season, possibly even year-round for certain patients. The number of treatments may also increase for a patient. Instead of an allergy pill, they may also have to take an antihistamine or steroid spray.

The good news is that many of those medications are being made generic, so people can get them when they need them without a prescription.