It’s a beautiful 70-degree day and you have a million errands to run. Your 5-month-old is asleep in the back seat and you just need to stop into the grocery store for one item. There is no harm in leaving your child for a couple minutes. Think again.
Since 1998, more than 500 children across the U.S. have died from hyperthermia, when unattended in a vehicle. Sadly, more than half of these reported heat stroke deaths occurred when a distracted caregiver forgot their child was in the car or truck. Other heat stroke fatalities occurred when a child was playing in an unattended vehicle and became trapped, or when a child was intentionally left unattended by an adult "for just a few minutes."
Heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41.1 degrees Celsius) or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn't quickly treated. Prompt medical treatment is required to bring the body temperature under control.
Even on a mild day, the temperature inside a car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. On an 80-degree day, the inside of a closed car can quickly reach 100 degrees in the time it takes to run into the store for an errand.
“A child can die from heat stroke on a comfortable 72-degree day,” says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children’s. “A child’s body is not the same as adults - it can heat up five times faster than an adult’s.”
What parents can do to protect children.
Since 1998, more than 500 children across the U.S. have died as a result of hyperthermia (also known as heat stroke). Some children are forgotten in the car by a caregiver, while others gain access to an unlocked hot car and then become locked inside. For every child who dies after being left alone in a hot car, hundreds more are near misses - those rescued before a fatality. Together we can reduce the number of deaths and near misses by remembering these simple tips:
Remember to ACT:
- Avoid heat stroke-related injury and death by:
- Never leaving your child alone in the car, not even for a minute
- Consistently locking unattended vehicle doors and trunks so children cannot climb in to play.
- Create reminders and habits that give you and your child’s caregiver added security:
- Establish a plan. When you drop off your child, make a habit of calling or texting all other caregivers, so all of you know where your child is at all times.
- Place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or an item that is needed at your next stop in a back seat next to your child.
- Set the alarm on your cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop your child off at childcare.
- Take action if you see an unattended child in a vehicle:
- Dial 911 immediately and follow the instructions provided by emergency personnel – they are trained to determine if a child is in danger.
“Finally, tell others about the importance of never leaving their child alone in the car and creating reminders to keep all little ones safe,” says Schwing. “Together we can prevent these devastating tragedies.”
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