How Climate Change Affects Your Health (and What You Can Do About It)

Take a look at the following tips to learn how to protect yourself from climate change, then read on to learn what each person can do to make a difference. 

on August 21, 2023

This blog post was written with our patients and participants in mind.

Learn more about CCI’s commitment to accessibility.

Summer is a favorite season for many of us. Each year, we count down the days to Memorial Day to get outside and create new memories with our family and friends. 

Something about this summer feels different, though. We are used to hot weather here in Maryland, but there have been more than a few days when the temperature has been too much. We also have had to deal with a rise in air pollution in recent weeks. So, what is going on here? 

The intense heat and poor air quality trace back to the same cause: climate change. You have probably heard a lot about climate change. It is a serious problem changing our planet in dangerous and permanent ways. Temperatures and sea levels are rising, food production is declining worldwide, and the weather is becoming more severe

Climate change also causes health issues for all of us. For example, did you know that July was the hottest month in 120,000 years? Really! The worst part is this summer could be one of the coolest we will experience for the rest of our lives. It is hard to imagine what future summers may feel like. 

Community health centers like CCI are sounding the alarm on climate change. Take a look at the following tips to learn how to protect yourself from climate change, then read on to learn what each person can do to make a difference. 

How to stay safe in a changing climate  

Check the air quality each day 

We need to start checking the air quality rate daily because air pollution can damage our lungs. The air quality rate tells us if pollution is worse than usual. Some of us may need to wear a mask when we leave the house if the air quality is poor. Neighbors with respiratory issues—like asthma—may need to avoid leaving their homes altogether on especially bad days. 

The weather app on your phone will tell you whether the air quality is good or bad. You can also check the air quality online.

The U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI) will tell you the air quality rate for the day. It will also offer suggestions on any action you may need to take to protect yourself from poor air quality. You can read the AQI measures here (disponible en Español). 

Drink plenty of water 

The amount of water you should drink depends on how active you are and your overall health. You are likely hydrated if you do not feel thirsty, your mouth is not dry, and your urine is clear or a light yellow. If you are thirsty, have a dry mouth, or your urine is dark, you need to drink more water. However, everyone must drink more water than usual on hot days because excess sweating leads to dehydration. Learn more from the CDC (disponible en Español). 

Spend less time outdoors on very hot days 

The most dangerous time to be outside on hot days is between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. Try to schedule any outdoor activities for early morning or late evening to beat the heat. Stay near the shade if you must be outside in the early afternoon. 

Spend more time indoors with air conditioning 

Air conditioning is an important part of staying cool. If you do not have easy access to air conditioning, you can spend time in your local library. Find your library in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County

Wear light, loose clothing 

The right clothes can help keep us cool. Wear clothes that allow plenty of airflow. Do not wear clothes that are restrictive or tight. Dark color clothes can also make you hotter, so try to wear light colors. 

Follow county alerts 

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties offer an alert system to keep residents up to date on weather emergencies. You can receive these alerts through text, email, or voice mail. Sign up for alerts from Montgomery County or Prince George’s County

Check in on others 

Climate change affects everyone but can be especially dangerous for older people, those in poor health, people without insurance, and families living on low incomes. Stay in touch with your neighbors and ask them if they need help. Do what you can to keep your neighborhood safe. 

If it is hot for you, it is also hot for your pet. Make sure your dog or cat has plenty of fresh water and a cool place to lie down. Learn more about how to keep your pet safe in the heat (Así puedes proteger a tu perro y otras mascotas del calor extremo). Please remember that there are laws in Maryland that protect animals from neglect. 

How to do your part to slow down climate change 

Climate change is the result of human activities. Unfortunately, many of the systems we depend on make climate change worse. It is not easy to break away from them, and no one person can stop the crisis. However, each of us can do our part to slow down climate change. Thankfully, a few small behavior changes can make a difference. Here is what you can do starting today. 

Use less energy 

Try to be mindful of how much energy you use in your home. Open a window on cooler days instead of using your air conditioner. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Try to do less laundry and hang dry your clothes if you can. 

Eat more vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes 

Plant-based foods require less energy to produce compared to animal-based foods. They are also healthier! Check out some of our favorite recipes on our YouTube channel. 

Reduce your food waste 

Food production uses a lot of resources. We waste those resources whenever we throw out food. Food in landfills also produces methane which speeds up climate change. Think about your grocery list and consider what you really need to buy each week. Eat out less often and cook more at home. Learn more about how to stop food waste. 

Reduce your use of plastic 

It can take hundreds of years for plastic to biodegrade. The good news is that there are many ways to cut back on plastic without much inconvenience. Reduce your plastic consumption and lessen its impact on the environment
(Reduce tu consumo de plástico y mitiga su impacto en el medio ambiente.) 

Use your voice 

Your voice is the most powerful tool available to stop climate change. You can share this article with your friends and family and use your social media accounts to encourage others to act for the climate. Also, your example can influence others! 

Climate change may be here, but our response will decide what happens next. Meanwhile, CCI is here to help you understand how the climate affects your health. If you are experiencing any environmental health problems, call us at (866) 877-7258 to schedule an appointment.