Skip to main content
Portrait Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann
Helmholtz Munich | ©Micha Pawlitzki Photography

Asthma, allergies, heat and fungal spores - how climate change is affecting people's health worldwide.


Review of the presentation by Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Head of the 'Institute of Environmental Medicine', IEM (Helmholtz Munich/Environmental Health Center) at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann is head of the 'Institute of Environmental Medicine' (Helmholtz Munich/Environmental Health Center) and is deputy director of the Center for Climate Resilience at the University of Augsburg. She has been researching the consequences of climate change on the environment and health for many years. She gave a presentation on this topic at the COP27 World Climate Conference in Egypt in the fall of 2022 that received worldwide attention. Her key messages summarized in a nutshell:

Climate change is a huge threat to human health. It promotes allergies, makes vulnerable people suffer even more from heat and promotes the emission of pollutants, including harmful fungal spores.

Allergies will increase, because pollen will fly more and longer and will form even more aggressive proteins, which will then sometimes trigger allergies in previously healthy people. In addition, CO2 as a growth factor increases the amount of pollen emitted. The rising temperatures change the distribution areas of plants and bring new allergens to us: ragweed, for example, which can trigger severe asthma attacks.

Pollen also affects the health of people who do not suffer from allergies: Pollen blocks the immune system of the mucous membranes, infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract are the result. In the wake of the Corona pandemic, scientists found that the higher the pollen concentration in the air, the higher the infection rate with SARS CoV-2 (Damialis et al. PNAS).

In her presentation at the UN Climate Change Conference, Prof. Traidl-Hofmann emphasized the importance of early warning systems for heat, pollutants and pollen - combined and coordinated. In addition, she said, people need to be made aware of these multiple environmental hazards. Policymakers need to develop and implement heat and emergency response plans, both for hospitals and more generally in cities and communities, she said. France has been leading the way with its heat protection plan since the heatwave of 2003, and Germany urgently needs to follow suit.

You can watch Prof. Traidl-Hoffmann's presentation at the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference here (approx. 3 h 36 min):

Watch on YouTube