The human immune system is an interface across which many climate change sensitive exposures can affect health outcomes. Gaining an understanding of the range of potential effects that climate change could have on immune function will be of considerable importance, particularly for child health, but has, as yet, received minimal research attention. We postulate several mechanisms whereby climate change sensitive exposures and conditions will subtly impair aspects of the human immune response, thereby altering the distribution of vulnerability within populations—particularly for children—to infection and disease. Key climate change-sensitive pathways include under-nutrition, psychological stress and exposure to ambient ultraviolet radiation, with effects on susceptibility to infection, allergy and autoimmune diseases. Other climate change sensitive exposures may also be important and interact, either additively or synergistically, to alter health risks. Conducting directed research in this area is imperative as the potential public health implications of climate change-induced weakening of the immune system at both individual and population levels are profound. This is particularly relevant for the already vulnerable children of the developing world, who will bear a disproportionate burden of future adverse environmental and geopolitical consequences of climate change.
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