Why is it that every single year during the summer months, we hear or read about the of very preventable deaths of children who were left unattended in hot cars? On average, 38 children die from heat-related causes after being trapped in hot vehicles according to SafeKids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children, the number one killer of kids in the United States.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, thus far this year a reported 23 children have succumbed to heatstroke in hot cars. Last year, there were at least thirty-three deaths of children due to hyperthermia (heatstroke) after being left in or having gained access to hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s. Since 1998 there have been at least 584 documented cases of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.
Experts say that children’s bodies tend to heat up three to five times faster than adult’s which is why, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. Even with the windows rolled down two inches, it can take a matter of ten minutes for the interior of a vehicle to heat up to unbearable temperatures on any given hot day. So in the blink of an eye, even if a caregiver is running a quick errand, a child’s bodily temperature can quickly rise in a hot car which can result in a fatality.
Jan Null, a meteorologist and adjunct professor with San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences has done extensive research on hyperthermia deaths of children in vehicles. According to Null’s studies, in just 10 minutes the temperature inside a vehicle can rise an average of 19 degrees, 29 degrees in 20 minutes and 34 degrees in 30 minutes. Heatstroke takes place when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees and a body temp of 107 degrees is considered lethal. Since children’s body masses are less and they possess less of an ability for their bodies to cool themselves, they are particularly vulnerable.
How can heatstroke deaths in children who are left in hot vehicles be prevented? Well, caregivers should remember and follow three simple steps or ACT, which are recommended guidelines by SafeKids in order to put the brakes on children and heatstroke deaths in hot cars:
1) Avoid heatstroke -related injury by NEVER leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Always lock your vehicle/s when you are not in it, so that children can never gain access to them without your knowledge.
2) Create reminders for yourself and place them next to your child, objects that you will need once you get to your final destination like a cell phone, purse or briefcase. A reminder will serve as an important flag for you particularly if you happen to be juggling a lot on your mind or are not following a normal routine.
3) Take action! If you happen to spot an unattended child in a parked vehicle, please do not hesitate for one second to call 911. Your phone call could save a child’s life!
Need more info? Contact SafeKids.org.
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