It’s hot outside – and that’s bad news for children’s health

AUSTIN, Texas – Rising rates of air pollution are causing heat waves to heat up and become more frequent, putting children’s health at risk, according to a comprehensive new report.

A June 15 article in the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed the current study to take a clear inventory of how air pollution and climate change interact to adversely affect human health, especially children’s health. It has examined the link between fossil fuel emissions and the various consequences of climate change – including extreme weather events; Fire; Vector-borne illnesses such as malaria, Zika and Lyme disease; And heat waves, a topic at the forefront of many people’s minds.

This month, for example, there were reports of record-high temperatures across the United States, affecting more than 100 million people and touching places from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, the Southwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, in Texas, Austin has already experienced an eight-day trend of temperatures above the 100-degree mark in June.

Frederica Pereira, lead author of the article, says these patterns are an important reality to notice. “My concern is that the threat is increasing as temperatures rise,” Pereira, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told KHN. “Temperatures are rising because greenhouse gas emissions are rising, and this is a big concern for everyone’s health – but especially the most risky.”

Children fit into this section, Pereira and her co-author Dr. Kari Nadeu writes that their ability to regulate temperature, known as thermoregulation, is not fully developed.

They are also more sensitive to heat-related stress because they need to drink and eat more frequently to stay small and healthy, Pereira said. But since “young children are dependent on parents to provide, sometimes their needs are ignored,” he said.

The authors point out that heat-related illnesses are “a major and growing cause of death and illness among student athletes” in the United States. In addition, they cite research that shows that “heat related to climate change” affects mental health. Children and adolescents, as well as their learning abilities.

The review article points to previous studies that have linked exposure to heat waves in the uterus to “risk of premature birth or low birth weight; hyperthermia and death in infants; and heat stress, kidney disease, and other illnesses” in infants.

Dr. Robert Dubro, a professor of epidemiology at Yale’s School of Public Health, said: “Getting pregnant is physically very important and then the heat puts extra stress on a pregnant woman who was not involved in either study.” “And the fetus can also feel the pressure of heat, which can have adverse effects on birth.”

And these heat-related risks are “higher across the board for low-income communities and communities of color,” the authors of the new article wrote.

According to the article, carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased sharply in the last 70 years. “Modeling indicates that in the absence of climate change there will be an outstanding potential for some heat waves to occur,” it says.

The authors briefly outline the solutions they describe as “climate and environmental strategies” that should also be seen as “essential public health policies.” Beyond the big-picture efforts to mitigate fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, they offered a variety of child protection measures – what they called “adaptation measures” – including providing clean water and shade to children and families facing drought or water pollution. Create areas where children play, live and go to school.

Separately, Austin-based research highlighted why this move might make sense.

Researchers have tracked the level and location of physical activity of students aged 8 to 10 during vacations in three primary schools in 2019. They compared children’s activity during the two-week vacation in September, the warmest full month of the school year, to the coldest week of November. . “We wanted to understand the effect of outdoor temperatures on children’s play in the school yard environment,” said Kevin Lanza, lead researcher on the study, to “design future school-based interventions for physical activity in the face of climate change.”

During the summer, he said, “children engage in less physical activity and seek shade.”

As temperatures continue to rise, schools need to be flexible to ensure students are getting the daily exercise they need, he said. “Schools should consider adding shade by planting trees or installing artificial structures that cover spaces for physical activity,” said Lanza, an assistant professor at UTHealth’s School of Public Health. He added that school policies could be updated so that holidays were scheduled during the colder days and moved in during the hottest days.

But steps need to be taken beyond such measures to protect children as a whole from scorching weather, Pereira said, and more climate and clean air policies need to be formulated.

“The government has a responsibility to protect the population, and especially the most vulnerable, especially children,” Pereira said. “Immediate action must be taken because we are going in the wrong direction.”

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