Extreme weather conditions have a significant negative effect on skin disease

The skin is a large, complex organ and serves as the body’s primary interface with the environment, playing a key role in sensory, thermoregulatory, barrier and immunological functioning. As floods, wildfires and extreme heat increase in frequency and severity, they pose a significant threat to global dermatological health, as many skin diseases are climate sensitive. Researchers draw on a comprehensive review of published research to highlight the major dermatological manifestations initiated or exacerbated by these climatic events, as well as highlighting the disproportionate effects on marginalized and vulnerable populations. Their findings appear in The Journal of Climate Change and Health, published by Elsevier.

“We wanted to provide dermatologists and other practitioners with a comprehensive overview of extreme weather-related skin conditions as a basis for patient education, implementation of early treatment interventions, and improved disease outcomes,” explains lead author Eva Rawlings Parker, MD, Department of Dermatology and the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society. , Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA. “We were amazed at the magnitude of the effects extreme weather has on skin diseases and how profoundly climate change is exacerbating inequalities.”

In their review, Dr. Parker and her colleagues nearly 200 papers documenting the myriad effects of extreme weather events on the skin. Marcalee Alexander, MD, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Climate Change and Healthnoted, “This information is especially timely in light of traumatic events such as Hurricane Ian, which has led to increased infections due to exposure to flooding and standing water.”

Flooding, one of the most common natural disasters, is associated with traumatic wounds and bacterial and fungal infections of the skin. Contact dermatitis is another common consequence of flooding, as floodwaters are often contaminated with pesticides, sewage, fertilizers and chemicals. Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause atopic dermatitis (eczema) in adults without a prior diagnosis, and it can cause or worsen acne.

Because the skin plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, the effects of prolonged heat waves can be severe. For example, the inability to cool down properly during high temperatures can lead to heat stroke and death. Many chronic inflammatory dermatoses are also aggravated by heat. Infectious diseases can be seasonal, with heat and humidity increasing the risk of common skin infections caused by bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens. Less obvious, extreme heat events affect behavior. When temperatures are high, people can spend more time outdoors, exposing them to air pollution, UV rays and insects.

dr. Parker and her colleagues noted that extreme weather events disproportionately affect marginalized and vulnerable populations and exacerbate existing health disparities. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with mental illness, racial/ethnic minorities, low-income people and migrants are particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts.

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Black, Hispanic and lower-income populations are more likely to live in areas with a higher risk of flooding. These populations also have a higher incidence of skin diseases and less access to care. Extreme heat is a primary occupational hazard for manual and migrant workers. Extreme weather conditions contribute to large-scale migration. Skin diseases are among the most commonly reported health problems among migrants. Of particular concern is the spread of communicable and infectious diseases and vector-borne viruses. People who are homeless are plagued by higher rates of highly morbid, climate-sensitive skin diseases.

“This year was marked by historic and deadly heatwaves in North America, Europe and Asia; devastating floods in the United States, Pakistan and Australia; drought and famine in Somalia and Madagascar; and wildfires in the western US, Russia, Argentina and across Europe. Extreme weather events are devastating the planet, disrupting critical infrastructure, severely impacting health and amplifying health disparities,” said Dr. parker. “Clinicians, policymakers, environmental advocates and researchers around the world need to be well aware of the current and future disruptions that climate change and extreme weather events will bring to human health.”

dr. Parker and co-authors suggest that further population-based, clinical and occupational health research is needed to better define the risk of adverse health outcomes, identify susceptible populations, focus on equitable and equitable strategies for resilience and adaptation, and assess the influence of social factors on the relationship between exposure and health outcomes.

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materials supplied by Elsevier. Note: Content is editable for style and length.


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