Pediatricians say they are seeing the impacts of climate change in children in many ways, from asthma, to allergies, to premature births. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls climate change one of the top health threats to children around the world. Now, doctors around the country are driving a call to action.
Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Patel says the effects of climate change on children are “Everything you can imagine.” “I think that’s why all of us are so involved in this. Now we understand that climate change affects every part of our bodies and our health,” she says. That includes pollution-triggered asthma, severe allergies with longer allergy seasons, and heat illnesses with rising temperatures.
As wildfires burned near San Francisco last summer, Dr. Patel says she saw firsthand how climate change can affect health. “Around late September, I remember shift after shift, I just, I had several deliveries that I would go to on each shift of moms that were coming in in labor, about a month to two months early.” Previous studies show air pollution and excess heat can cause premature labor.
In an effort to protect families, U.S. pediatricians across the country are now banding together and lobbying lawmakers for change. Climate change advocates with the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing for new laws on renewable energy, passing climate resolutions, and educating other physicians.
Montana pediatrician Dr. Lori Byron helped start the AAP Chapter Climate Advocates program after extreme weather displaced families on the American Indian reservation where she works. “Whether it’s having to move out of your home, or losing your economic security, or sometimes for farmers and ranchers, losing their farm or their livestock, and all of those things affect us as a society and affect our children,” she says.
Dr. Byron says we need to fight for change so our children can have a better tomorrow.