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Extreme temperatures and paediatric emergency department admissions


Background Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures.

Objective To examine the relationship between extreme temperatures and paediatric emergency department admissions (EDAs) in Brisbane, Australia, during 2003–2009.

Methods A quasi-Poisson generalised linear model combined with a distributed lag non-linear model was used to examine the relationships between extreme temperatures and age-, gender- and cause-specific paediatric EDAs, while controlling for air pollution, relative humidity, day of the week, influenza epidemics, public holiday, season and long-term trends. The model residuals were checked to identify whether there was an added effect due to heat waves or cold spells.

Results There were 131 249 EDAs among children during the study period. Both high (RR=1.27; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.44) and low (RR=1.81; 95% CI 1.66 to 1.97) temperatures were significantly associated with an increase in paediatric EDAs in Brisbane. Male children were more vulnerable to temperature effects. Children aged 0–4 years were more vulnerable to heat effects and children aged 10–14 years were more sensitive to both hot and cold effects. High temperatures had a significant impact on several paediatric diseases, including intestinal infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases, nervous system diseases and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Low temperatures were significantly associated with intestinal infectious diseases, respiratory diseases and endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases. An added effect of heat waves on childhood chronic lower respiratory diseases was seen, but no added effect of cold spells was found.

Conclusions As climate change continues, children are at particular risk of a variety of diseases which might be triggered by extremely high temperatures. This study suggests that preventing the effects of extreme temperature on children with respiratory diseases might reduce the number of EDAs.

  • Child Health
  • Communicable Diseases
  • Environmental Health

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