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New research shows how health risks for children increase as temperatures rise

It is well established that days of extreme heat are dangerous for adults and can lead to many deaths, especially in vulnerable populations such as the elderly. When temperatures rise, people can become seriously ill or die if they are not able to effectively sweat and cool down. This can lead to an increase in internal body temperature.

In addition to temperature-related illnesses such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion, adults can also suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders. Last summer, a New York Times analysis found that the deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest resulted in 600 more deaths than would have been typical.

"We know that days of extreme heat due to climate change will be more frequent and intense," said Francesca Dominici, a biostatistician at Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health who has studied the effects of extreme heat on human health and was not involved. in the new research. "The extent to which children are susceptible to the risk of climate change should be a high priority for researchers to investigate."

One reason why it is important to study children is because of the possibility of lifelong effects. "The question of which of these diseases manifests on a hot day, which can be completely cured with proper intervention, and which can create chronic disease later in life, is a very open research question," said Dr. Dominici.

Dr. Dominici added that this research could make clinicians and parents more aware of the range of disorders that affect children during warmer temperatures. "If we know what types of diseases can get worse these days in children, we can either prevent these diseases, or when children get into ED, clinicians are aware of what is happening."

Dr. Bernstein said the research highlighted the inequalities in pediatric health care. For example, although a quarter of all bacterial intestinal infections were attributed to heat, these rates were significantly higher for non-white children and those who rely on public health insurance such as Medicaid. The data, which did not include pediatric visits to local hospitals or primary care appointments, reiterated that "children without good access to care are more likely to use an emergency department," he said.

"It's one thing when we see these inequalities exposed in people at the end of life," said Dr. Bernstein. But for a child, "we put them on a substantially different course for the rest of their lives."

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