Hot days are sending higher percentages of kids to the ER

Children’s visits to emergency rooms in the U.S. rose almost 12% during the warmest months of the year over a three-year period, according to a new study co-authored by Aaron Bernstein.

The study, published January 19, 2021 in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to take a comprehensive look at how rising temperatures due to climate change are affecting children’s health.

“Our study suggests that this is just as big of a health impact among children as it is among adults given the same exposure, and I think that may be surprising to people,” said Bernstein, a pediatrician and interim director of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), in a January 19, 2022 article in E&E News.

The study analyzed data from nearly four million emergency department visits at 47 children’s hospitals in the U.S. from May to September from 2016 to 2018. The researchers found that, with hotter temperatures, kids experienced more heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, as well as other problems such as bacterial intestinal infections less obviously related to heat. Bernstein speculated that intestinal infections could be related to picnicking or eating foods left sitting out in the heat.

The study also showed that children of color and those with public insurance such as Medicaid were more likely to wind up in the ER on hot days than white children or those with private insurance. The findings underscore “a whole body of work that says we absolutely need to provide better health care to the least fortunate children in our country,” Bernstein said in an interview on the radio show “Living on Earth.”

Read the E&E News article: Rising heat linked to kids’ ER visits

Listen to or read the “Living on Earth” interview: Warming Climate and Children’s Health

Read a New York Times article: New Research Shows How Health Risks to Children Mount as Temperatures Rise

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