By: Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP
When pediatricians take care of children, we aren't just thinking about their health and safety now—we are thinking about their health and safety in the future, too.
When we talk with parents about
healthy diet and
exercise, we aren't just thinking about good growth and energy now, we are thinking about making sure that children grow into healthy adults. When we talk with parents about
tobacco exposure, we aren't just thinking about
avoiding asthma attacks, we are thinking about the risk of future lung cancer. When we talk with parents about helping their children with
homework, we aren't just thinking about passing first grade or getting into
college, we are thinking about their ability to earn a living wage when they grow up.
That's why pediatricians care about climate change, and why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued the policy statement entitled "Global Climate Change and Children's Health." Climate change not only affects the lives of children now, it has everything to do with their future.
Here's how climate change affects our children now
Children are more vulnerable to
heat waves, especially infants and athletes.
Extreme weather events, such as
wildfires, not only directly threaten the lives and safety of children, they put them at risk of mental health problems—and can also cause lasting effects when they destroy their communities and their schools.
Poor air quality from climate change can cause breathing problems, especially in
children with asthma.
Climate change has led to increases in infections such as
parasites, which are often more dangerous to children than adults.
In some parts of the world, climate change has led to less food—and
less healthy food.
If climate change continues
But if climate change continues, so will the effects on our children as they grow into adults. They will live in a world with:
Fewer species of plants and animals
Less land, as the seas rise
Mass migration, as people try to find a safe and healthy place to live
More instability, as people and governments argue over limited resources
Let's work together to leave the world a better, healthier, safer place—and give our children a better, healthier, safer future.
Talk with your pediatrician
If you're concerned about carbon monoxide, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.
About Dr. McCarthy
Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, a senior editor for Harvard Health Publications, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She writes about health and parenting for theHarvard Health Blog, Huffington Post and many other online and print publications.