Patient Struggling With Heat, Asthma Gets Climate Diagnosis

ER doc in Canada may be first to put that on a chart
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2021 6:09 PM CST
After Heat Wave, ER Doc Diagnoses Climate Change
Smoke from the wildfires burning in the western United State nearly obscures the sunset in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.   (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

A doctor in Canada named climate change as the cause of his patient’s asthma. Kyle Merritt, an emergency room doctor in Nelson, British Columbia, made the diagnosis after a record-setting heatwave in the province last year that killed hundreds in the US and Canada. Merritt’s patient is a woman in her 70s with diabetes and heart failure who was struggling to deal with the heat while living in a trailer, and then forced to cope with choking smoke from wildfires, Glacier Media reports. Merritt felt it was important to include that reality in his diagnosis.

"If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind," he said. And she might be the first to get that diagnosis. She likely won’t be the last, though. A group of his colleagues who have seen the effects of climate change on their patients’ physical and mental health banded together to start Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health. The group recently met in front of the Nelson city hall to urge the government to protect the planet. "Working with patients directly, we are actually starting to see the health effects of climate change now. It’s not just something that is going to happen in the future," Merritt told the Nelson Star. (More climate change stories.)

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