Study links rain, stomach ailments

Jun 17, 2010
Just as beach closings are linked to heavy rainfalls, a recent study finds gastrointestinal maladies correlate with heavy rains. Photo by Jennifer Yauck

(PhysOrg.com) -- A recently released study conducted in Milwaukee reveals a link between rainfall and gastrointestinal disease in children, indicated by an increase in hospital emergency department visits a few days after rainfall.

The increase suggests that microbial may be a hidden health issue in areas served by high-quality water systems, says Marc Gorelick, M.D., Jon E. Vice Chair in Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Microbial contamination of water after periods of heavy rain has been well-described, he says, but its link to acute in children has not.

Gorelick led the study, which was published this month in , and funded by the Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center (CEHSC) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Collaborators include Sandra McLellan, associate scientist at UWM’s Great Lakes WATER Institute, and Patrick Drayna, M.D., pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University.

The study looked at visits to Children’s Hospital Emergency Department/Trauma Center in Milwaukee for gastroenteritis or diarrhea from 2002 through 2007. This data was then compared with local data.

The data showed an 11 percent increase in the number of visits four days after rainfall. Higher amounts of rain were associated with greater increases.

The increase occurred in the absence of any health outbreaks reported to public health officials, and may be greatly underestimated, says Gorelick.

“Our results show a direct correlation between rainfall and an increase in this illness,” says Gorelick, who also is associate director of the Children’s Research Institute, a professor of pediatrics and population health, and chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Further study is needed to determine the source of the contamination, says UWM’s McLellan, but she adds that it probably is not insufficient treatment of drinking water.

“In cities where there is aging infrastructure and leaking pipes, untreated sewage could be leaking into stormwater systems, and children can be exposed to this contaminated water through playing in water in the stormwater culverts in their neighborhoods, for example,” says McLellan. “There is certainly strong evidence that exposure is happening at some point and more detailed studies are needed to figure this out.”

Gorelick adds that the findings have implications for the future. “This knowledge will be important when considering how climate change, such as increased rainfall, will impact health care systems and the health of our children,” he says.

Explore further: Tips offered to docs, spouses for maintaining happy marriage

Provided by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

4 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Waterborne disease risk upped in Great Lakes

Oct 08, 2008

An anticipated increased incidence of climate-related extreme rainfall events in the Great Lakes region may raise the public health risk for the 40 million people who depend on the lakes for their drinking water, according ...

Personal disaster preparedness

Jan 22, 2009

A recent survey by Medical College of Wisconsin researchers of over 1,800 patients seen in the Froedtert Hospital Emergency Department revealed that Metro Milwaukee residents may not personally be as well prepared for disasters ...

Statewide program to improve emergency care for children

Aug 14, 2009

An initiative is underway to improve emergency medical care for Illinois' youngest patients. Loyola University Health System (LUHS), in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and other area hospitals, ...

Recommended for you

Evidence plays limited role in OTC decision making

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For pharmacy graduates and tutors, evidence seems to play a limited role in over-the-counter decision making, according to a study published online Dec. 11 in the Journal of Evaluation in Cl ...

Shared medical appointments beneficial in geriatric care

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For older patients, a shared medical appointment (SMA) program facilitates early detection and referral for geriatric syndromes, according to an article published online Nov. 29 in the Journal of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.