Dangers of heatstroke
Why do children die when left in a car unattended during the hot summer months? As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns, even when temperatures are relatively cool, say in the 60s, the temperature inside the car can quickly climb to above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take just 10 minutes for temperatures to rise almost 20 degrees. If the outside temps are in the low 80s, inside the car the temperature can rise to deadly levels in only 10 minutes.
Children’s bodies overheat easily. Those who are the greatest risk for heat-related illness are children under the age of four.
Another fact to remember is that children absorb more heat than adults on a hot day. In addition, children are less able to cool their bodies by sweating. Body temperature rises rapidly when there’s insufficient sweating. The body temperature of a young child can increase three to five times as fast as an adult. Permanent injury or even death can result from high body temperatures.
What does heatstroke look like? Experts say the warning signs include red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, nausea, acting strangely, a strong rapid pulse or slow weak pulse.
Keep the kids safe: follow these tips
- Never leave a child (infants or children) unattended in a vehicle – even if the window is cracked open, the engine is running, or the air conditioning is on.
- Do not permit your child to play in a vehicle left unattended. Instead, advise them that the family car is not a play area.
- Never leave a child in a parked vehicle – even if the engine is running or the windows are partially open.
- Always check inside the vehicle – the front and the back – before locking and leaving it.
- Always lock the vehicle when leaving it – doors and trunk. If a child is missing, always check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
- Keep reminders that you have a child in the car. Such reminders may mean you put a sticky note on your dash so you see it when you’re getting ready to leave the car; placing your laptop, purse, or briefcase (or coat or sweater that you’ll need) in the back seat so you’ll have to check there before you get out of the car; leave something in the child seat, such as a favorite stuffed toy, and move it to the front of the car so that you’ll see it before you leave the car.
- When dropping children off at childcare, if it’s normally your spouse that does it but you’re doing it this time, have your spouse call you to make sure the child arrived at childcare.
- Ask your childcare provider to call you immediately if your child doesn’t show up as scheduled.
- If you see a child alone in a hot car – call the police. If you see signs the child is in distress, try to get the child out of the car as quickly as you can and call 911 or an emergency number immediately. Cooling the child is critical. Water can help rehydrate until emergency assistance arrives.
- If you see an animal alone in a hot car – Call police or local animal control center for assistance. Every year, animal control gets calls to respond to distressed animals left by their owners in locked cars. Some animals make it, but many don’t.
Not only does it make sense to help safeguard children and pets by not leaving them alone in a hot car, in some states (Texas being one), it’s against the law to leave children unattended in a vehicle. Penalties could include a fine or a jail sentence.
But when tragedy strikes due to negligence or carelessness, life is never the same for those responsible.
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[NHTSA, Safe Kids USA]