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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard Identifies Causes of Hospitalization Due to Heat Waves

In the largest and most comprehensive study of heat-related illness to date, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers have identified a handful of potentially serious disorders — including fluid and electrolyte disorders, renal failure, urinary tract infections, sepsis, and heat stroke — that put older Americans at significantly increased risk of winding up in the hospital during periods of extreme heat. The study also showed that risks were larger when the heat wave periods were longer and more extreme and were largest on the heat wave day, but remained elevated for up to five subsequent days.

“An innovative aspect of this work is that, rather than preselect a few individual diseases to examine, we considered all possible causes of hospital admission during heat waves in order to characterize the effects of heat on multiple organ systems,” said Dr. Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics at Harvard Chan and senior author of the study. Read more