More children are ending up in the emergency room due to rising temperatures, according to research published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Harvard researchers examined more than 3 million ER visits at children’s hospitals between 2016 and 2018.
They found higher temperatures in late spring and summer were associated with higher rates of ER visits.
Children were 12% more likely to end up in the hospital during this time of year, than adults.
Researchers say although children dissipate heat the same way as adults do, the heat affects their bodies differently.
That’s partly due to a variation in body surface areas, body fat composition and hydration.
One-third of pediatric visits to the ER for heat stroke and heat exhaustion were attributable to heat.
One-quarter of visits for bacterial intestinal infections were attributable to heat.
However, children experienced other illnesses that were not so obviously linked to higher temperatures, including blood, immune and nervous system diseases.
Researchers have not yet found why cases of these illnesses increased during the warmer months.
Experts who took part in the study hope the new findings will help with the prevention and intervention of these illnesses and open up a pathway to new research.
Editor's note: this article was corrected to reflect the accurate number of ER visits attributed to heat. The article previously reported nearly one-third of pediatric visits to the ER were for heat stroke and heat exhaustion and one-quarter of visits were due to bacterial intestinal infections that were linked to heat.