Safety advocates warn about dangers of children dying in hot cars
By the Owensboro Times
Friday is National Heatstroke Prevention Day, and local and national officials are trying to warn about the dangers of children being left unattended in hot vehicles.
According to safekids.org, the last two years were the worst on record with a total of 105 children dying after being left in hot cars. To date this year, at least eight children have died of heatstroke.
Kay Ewing, a nurse who serves as OH’s community injury prevention educator, said the focus this year is awareness and how people can prevent pediatric vehicle heat stroke.
“Historically July and August are the months with the highest pediatric vehicle heat stroke deaths, not only because it’s the higher temperatures but because people’s routines change,” she said. “This year, Safe Kids is thinking during this non-normal time we are having we can especially find this to be true.”
Heatstroke occurs when the body is unable to cool itself quickly enough. Ewing said young children are at risk more than adults.
“Their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults,” she said. “Children don’t typically sweat. Adults sweat to cool their bodies off where children do not. Infants do not have any regulation in their body temperature until they are a little older.”
Eighty-eight percent of the children dying in hot vehicles are 4 years old and younger, according to safekids.org.
Ewing said hen a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and when the temperature reaches 107 degrees the child can die.
Even on mild days, the temperature in a car can rise by 19 degrees in only 10 minutes.
Ewing said cracking the window doesn’t help.
“That car still gets some outrageously high temperatures,” she said.
According to Safe Kid Worldwide, below are some tips to help eliminate heatstroke deaths:
- Never leave a young child in a car, even for a moment. While leaving your child in the car alone might seem like a good idea during these challenging times, it is not worth the risk. Seconds turn into minutes, and before you know it, the temperature inside of the car has reached lethal levels. Instead, find alternatives. Ask a friend or family member to watch your child at home or, if that’s not possible, have your child accompany you into the business, while following CDC recommended precautions. Please note that some businesses are not allowing younger children into their stores, so call first to be sure.
- Keep car doors and trunks locked and keep key fobs out of reach. With more families home and parents focusing on many priorities at once, supervision can be more difficult. Kids as young as 1 or 2 years old are known to climb into unlocked cars and trunks to play, but they can’t always get out. Locking your car doors and reminding your neighbors (even those without kids) to do the same provides an important level of protection. If, for some reason, you cannot find a child you thought was just outside playing, check cars and trunks.
- Create reminders. Research shows the majority of child heatstroke deaths involve a break in family routine. As COVID-19 “stay at home” and “safer at home” restrictions loosen, many parents will need to alter routines once again. When you’re driving, create reminders by putting something in the back seat of your car such as a briefcase, purse, or cell phone that you’ll need at your final destination.
- Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call first responders at 911. Many people on foot have helped save a child left alone in a vehicle.
- Make a plan with child care centers. Arrange for your child care center to call if your child is unexpectedly absent after the day begins.
For more information on preventing child heatstroke deaths, visit noheatstroke.org and www.safekids.org/heatstroke.