The hot summer weather brings with it the issue of children who are left in hot cars and the tragedy of heat stroke-related deaths.
Children are especially vulnerable in the heat because their body temperatures warm at a rate three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child is left in a hot car, the temperature of the car starts to warm the child’s body.
When the child’s core temperature reaches 107 degrees, the results can be fatal. Temperatures in a car can rise 20 degrees within 10 minutes and become deadly.
You may be surprised to know that heat stroke can occur in outdoor temperatures as low as 57 degrees.
Heat stroke is preventable. Know the symptoms: Dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations.
Here are precautions and actions parents and caregivers can take to prevent heat stroke in children:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away.
- Ask the child care provider to call if the child doesn’t show up for care as expected.
- Place something you will need at your next stop such as your phone, purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure your child isn’t accidentally left in the vehicle.
- Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the vehicle.
- Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach.
- If you see a child alone in a locked car, get the child out immediately and call 911.
- A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled. Cool the child gently as with cool water spray or a garden hose — never an ice bath.
For more information about heat stroke prevention and other child safety issues go to Safe Kids Worldwide.