As temperatures begin to increase this summer, so will, unfortunately, the number of children who are left in hot cars and die from heat stroke.
In our state, we’ve now lost two children this year to the heartbreaking tragedy of a car-related heatstroke death. In the United States, we lose one child every ten days – and all of these deaths are completely preventable.
Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, is a condition that occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Children are at great risk for heatstroke because a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. When the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, the internal organs start to shut down. When it reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
But understand that a closed car can reach killing temperatures on even a 65-degree day.
Most people say that this could “never happen to them, they would never leave a child in the car.” In my heart, I believe this is true – but I also know that since 1998, 752 parents and caregivers have said the same thing and been wrong.
Manufacturers are working to stop this tragedy. Car seat companies have developed alarms that alert you if you do not unfasten your child from their harness after the vehicle stops moving. Vehicle manufacturers are working on alerts and even phone apps that signal if you do not remove an object from the back seat.
While these steps are beneficial, I tell families that there are some very simple and easy methods they can use to help protect their child: ACT:
A – Avoid Heatstroke
Even on a beautiful day outside, don’t leave your children unattended in the vehicle. Also, one of the most common infant toys is a set of plastic keys. While cars are fun, keep real keys up and away to prevent your little one from accessing your trunk or vehicle without supervision. In some of these child deaths, families have accidentally locked their keys in the car, or the child has accidentally locked it from the inside.
C – Create Reminders
Create reminders for busy or tiring days. Place a stuffed animal, blanket or other child’s item in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder to “check for baby” before leaving the vehicle. There are also apps available. You also can ask your child’s day care to call you if your child does not arrive as expected or place a personal item under their car seat (on the floorboard) to remind you, such as a shoe or your cell phone or keys.
T – Take Action
If you see a child unattended in a vehicle, call 911. Stay with the child and on the line with emergency services until help has arrived.
Lee Penny, MHA, is program manager of injury prevention for Safe Kids Upstate, part of GHS Children’s Hospital‘s Bradshaw Institute for Community Child Health & Advocacy their child passenger safety programming is sponsored by Kohl’s. For more safety information please visit safekidsupstate.org or facebook.com/GHSBradshawInstitute/.