Climate Change and Respiratory Health

Current Evidence and Knowledge Gaps

Tim K Takaro; Kim Knowlton; John R Balmes


Expert Rev Resp Med. 2013;7(4):349-361. 

In This Article


The incidence of respiratory infections varies on a seasonal basis. Lower respiratory tract infections have a higher incidence during the winter in temperate areas, but in tropical areas, the incidence of infection is usually higher during the annual rainy season.[49] A retrospective analysis in Hong Kong showed that the magnitude of summer peaks of influenza. A infections have been increasing over the past decade.[50] A recent study in China found that multi-day increases in temperature (i.e., lack of cooling at night) were associated with increase emergency department utilization for respiratory tract infections.[51] Climate change could potentially increase the incidence of childhood pneumonia in tropical settings through several different mechanisms. Increased time indoors because of heavier rainfall could increase crowding and exposure to biomass fuel smoke, and decrease exposure to sunlight (i.e., reduced vitamin D). Population displacement due to drought and famine could further increase the rate of transmission of infections.[49] Malnutrition due to drought as a result of climate change is likely to increase pneumonia deaths, since a substantial proportion of pneumonia deaths in children under 5 years are attributed to this factor.[52]