Climate Change and Hyperthermia-Related Emergency Room Visits in the U.S.
John Brock, Warren Wilson College
26 Oct 2012
Increased warming due to climate change is expected to produce an increased number of hyperthermia-related emergency room visits. Therefore, we need to understand the geographic, weather-related and demographic metrics of hyperthermia-related ER visitors in order to predict the future health burden of climate change as well as to develop amelioration strategies. As a joint project between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, demographic information for 18,555 hyperthermia-related ER visitors between 2000-2010 was combined with geographic and local hourly weather data. Complete weather station data was available for about 175 U.S. urban centers. Within the weather data, we examined hourly temperatures, hourly humidity measures and various calculated measures of heat including the Steadman Heat Index, the Humidex, the Spatial Synoptic Index, and a new alternative version of the Heat Index. We were also able to include air quality measures for many of the urban centers. Although our sample of ER visitors was not nationally representative, the large size of the sample warranted the use of descriptive statistics to identify susceptible groups. Within our sample, male teenagers appeared twice as often as other age groups. Within teenagers, August has the largest number of hyperthermia-related ER visits. In the remaining ER visitors, the predominant month was July. In addition, we found that the high temperature on the day of the ER visit varied significantly by latitude. The maximum temperature (average for all visitors at that latitude) for northern latitudes (Chicago) was about 89.5oF and for southern latitudes (Atlanta) was 93.5oF. We are now using a case-crossover design to examine various metrics and combinations to calculate risks. The case-crossover results will be presented as well.
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