Climate Change Could Have Negative Health Effects On Children

Children are very vulnerable to illness due to climate related changes.
Children are very vulnerable to illness due to climate related changes.

Officials with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are calling on clinicians and politicians to work together to spread awareness of and address climate change, as this issue has the potential to affect children's health.

“Children are uniquely at risk to the direct impacts of climate changes and climate-related disaster — including floods and storms — where they are exposed to increased risk of injury, death, loss of or separation from caregivers and mental health consequences,” Samantha Ahdoot, MD, lead author of a technical paper on this issue explained in a statement. “They are also more vulnerable to the secondary impacts of global warming, like disease.” 1

Dr Ahdoot and colleagues from the AAP noted in the statement that changes in climate have been associated with an increased rate of Lyme disease in North America, as well as the spread of other infectious diseases including malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, diarrheal illness, and Coccidioidomycosis.

The report notes that by 2030, climate change will cause 48,000 deaths due to diarrheal disease in children younger than 15 years old.  

Climate change can also affect grain quality because of increased atmospheric CO2, which lowers the protein content of wheat, rice, and barley.  It has also increased rates of heat stroke, with double the number of deaths in American high school and college football players (from 15 to 29) between 2000 and 2010.

AAP officials urged a new public health initiative to promote public awareness and collaborate with politicians to address the climate change issue.  They also note that clinicians could be critical advocates of this initiative, because their patients are the most susceptible to the health effects.

Dr Ahdoot's technical paper accompanies an updated paper from the AAP, which was first released in 2007 that recommends that governments: "Invest in prudent and vital preparations for our public health care systems, including immunization programs and disease surveillance, reporting, and tracking."2

Reference

1.   Ahdoot SA, Pacheco SE. Technical report: global climate change and children's health. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5). 

2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Environmental Health. Policy statement: global climate change and children's health. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1149–1152

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