Doctors alert that children are born into a warming world that could cause more health problems for them.
Children grow up in a warmer world that will hit them with more and distinct health issues than experienced by their parents, said an international doctor report.
With increasing diarrhea diseases, more dangerous heat waves, air pollution and increases in mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, man-made global warming is already harming public health around the world, medical journal The Lancet said Wednesday’s annual climate change and health report.
But the report and its writers said they are worried that if emissions of heat-trapping gasses are not curbed, the future health of the world’s youngest people will get even more grim.
“A child born today as they go through their lives they are going to be increasingly exposed to more and more harms that I did not experience,” said Dr. Renee Salas, a Harvard emergency room physician and professor from Boston, co-author of the study. “I cannot think of a greater health emergency,” Salas said.
Already, since 1980, the number of days when conditions are ripe for the spread of waterborne bacteria Vibrio, a major cause of debilitating diarrhea, has doubled, the report said, with last year’s second highest ranking.
Due to the warming climate, Vibrio is vulnerable to 29 percent more of the U.S. coastline. The report also said that Vibrio’s cholera version has increased by almost 10%.
Nine of the top 10 years since 2000 were the most mature conditions for dengue fever transmission, the report said.
The report said that these diseases hit children harder. And children, the elderly, the poor and the sick, with dangerous overheating, respiratory disease and kidney problems, are most hurt during extreme heat.
“The most vulnerable are children. They will bear the large majority of climate change’s burden, ‘ said Dr. Nick Watts, an Australian emergency room physician and the global report’s lead author.” Their health will be deeply affected by climate change.
While medicine and public health have improved over the decades, allowing people to live longer, climate change “threatens to undermine all of the gains we’ve had, “said Salas.
Dr. Cindy Parker, Professor of Environmental Health at Johns Hopkins University, praised the peer-reviewed report that she was not part of, but she was concerned that focusing on the health effects that have already occurred would reduce the urgency of the future.“Climate change is a risk amplifier,” Parker said that in an email. So as bad as the health problems are, add in water and food shortages caused by climate-change and there will be more social unrest and conflict around the world that will still hit the United States in indirect ways, she said.
As a doctor in the emergency room, Salas said diseases that spread further because of a changing climate, such as Lyme Disease, are something she has to consider when she treats patients.
Salas saw an elderly man during shift in July, a heat wave at a body temperature of 106 degrees during an emergency room. The ambulance crew claimed he lived on the top floor of a housing complex with no air conditioning and when they opened the door, “there was this heat wave that affected them.”
Salas was able to save him. As a physician, however, she is dealing with situations where there is no way to treat the patient, such as catastrophic bleeding within the brain. With climate change health issues, she said, the remedy is stopping emissions of heat-trapping gases from the burning of coal, oil and gas.
“We cannot ‘ doctor ‘ our way out of this,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the American Public Health Association’s executive director, who was not part of the study but praised it. “We must address the root causes of climate change.”


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