“We’ve been seeing this whole range of [climate] effects that are sending children to the ER, and the list goes on, so I decided to put it all together,” Perera told CNN. “In a way, this is bad news, but look, we know how to deal with this. We know how to bring down emissions. We can take action now to make a huge difference, and that was the purpose of the article.”
Although the paper outlines several extreme climate events including flooding as well as air pollution, researchers say that heat remains the deadliest of all natural disasters in the US and that it poses a unique response situation.
“Heat is sneaky,” said Bernstein, who was not involved with the review. And because the impacts of heat can go unnoticed, Perera said it’s easy for parents or adult guardians — who have the ability to regulate their body temperatures better than kids — to overlook some symptoms when a child is suffering some heat-related condition.
“Children are dependent on adults for care and for receiving enough fluids and being placed in a cool place, making them particularly vulnerable,” Perera said. “We’ve seen tragic instances of children dying in parked cars during heat waves, where parents haven’t understood how hot it is.”
“We know more than enough to recognize heat as a major risk to child health,” Bernstein said. “We have evidence that children are showing up in emergency departments for all kids of problems when it gets hot out; that women who are pregnant and exposed to heat may have worse birth outcomes; and that heat affects children’s ability to learn and perform well on exams.”
“The clock is ticking,” she said. “We probably have less time because of the very sharp upward trajectory in emissions and temperatures, but there is a lot we can do to help children and families adapt to the already existing conditions brought by the changing climate.”