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Study Reports Heat Waves Increase Asthma Risk for Babies

Update Date: Oct 14, 2013 02:03 PM EDT

During a heat wave, people are at risk of suffering from dehydration, heat stroke and other health ailments. Due to the health risks involved during a heat wave, people are recommended to stay indoors, hydrated and cooled. Even though people tend to focus on these recommendations, a new study found another risk factor that parents should look out for during a heat wave. According to this study, researchers found that heat waves increase the risk of an asthma attack for infants.

"This study was conducted because little information is available on the quantitative relationship between extreme weather events and asthma," commented Shilu Tong, a professor from QUT's School of Public Health and Social Work and the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. "It is vitally important to examine the vulnerability of asthmatic children to climate variability and change. Asthma is one of the most frequent chronic childhood illnesses worldwide, and is one of the most common of the five most frequently reported long-term conditions in Australia for children younger than 15. There's no cure. It is useful to know when attacks are likely to occur, so that health authorities can plan better interventions and treatments." 

For the study, the research team looked at hospital admissions that occurred during extreme weather events, which were either extremely high or extremely low temperatures. The data they examined included over 13,300 emergency department visitations due to childhood asthma. The time period the researchers focused on was between 2003 and 2009 in Brisbane, Australia.

The researchers concluded that during heat waves, young boys were up to four times more vulnerable than girls. For cold weather events, children between the ages of 10 and 14 were more vulnerable to an asthma attack. The researchers explained that during these extreme weather conditions, the children's inflammation pathways were greatly affected. The researchers believe that in these situations, other triggers, such as viruses, bacterial activity and indoor allergens contribute to the increased risk of having an asthma attack.

Due to the studies done on cold-weather induced asthma attacks, researchers know that during the cold season, children are at a greater risk because they are indoors more often. Bacteria tend to survive longer indoors, which increases the risk of person-to-person infection. Based from this study's findings, the researchers reasoned that during hotter temperatures, allergens might grow indoors and trigger asthma attacks.

"Climate changes means just that - an increased chance of heat waves, particularly in warmer climates such as Australia. These findings are very important because the prevalence of asthma is likely to increase as climate chances progresses," Tong added reported by Medical Xpress.

The research team was composed of researchers from QUT, Griffith University, University of Queensland and the Anhui Medical University in China. The study can be accessed here.

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