A Canadian is thought to be the first person in the world diagnosed with a condition caused by climate change.
Dr Kyle Merritt examined the senior citizen who suffered from asthma and faced breathing difficulties when they arrived at the emergency department in Nelson, British Colombia.
Health workers said poor air quality and heatwaves were responsible for the patient’s symptoms, prompting Dr Merritt to make his first climate change clinical diagnosis.
“It’s me trying to process what I’m seeing,” he told Glacier Media.
“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.”
The patient was treated during the hottest heatwave in Canadian history in June when temperatures reached 49.5C and almost 500 people were killed.
In the aftermath of five days of heat, thick smoke from wildfires compromised air quality posing another risk to health.
Dr Merritt said it is time doctors started to consider the underlying cause of medical conditions triggered by heat and smoke.
“This past summer, it was so bad for about three weeks,” he continued. “We’re in the emergency department, we look after everybody from the most privileged to the most vulnerable, from cradle to grave.
“We see everybody and it’s hard to see people, especially the most vulnerable people in our society, being affected. It’s frustrating.”
The doctor said he hoped other physicians would see his diagnosis and consider drawing a straighter line between health and climate change.
He also spoke of a patient in her 70s whose health conditions had been aggravated by the extreme heat.
Climate change will kill 250,000 people per year between 2030 and 2050, according to the World Health Organization.
The phenomenon is leading to death and illness from increasingly extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods, disruptions to food systems, increases in disease spread and mental health issues.
Global warming will cause some existing health threats to worsen while others emerge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Canada is widely known for its brutal winter and snows rather than its heat.
Prior to the June heatwave, the historical high was 45C set in Saskatchewan in 1937.