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Cars, Kids And Summer Heat: A Dangerous Combination

National Heatstroke Prevention Day just passed on July 31 and with it came a spotlight on the danger of leaving children in hot cars in the summer months. To enlighten the public about the issue, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlighted their Safe Kids program with a ‘Where’s baby? Look before you lock’ campaign. They launched a day long social media event on Facebook and Twitter, posting statistics about the dangers of child heat stroke along with prevention tips and other information on the subject.

According to a study by San Francisco State University, 2013 has already seen 24 heat related fatalities in children. The number of kids who suffer hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being locked in hot cars is unknown, but injuries from heat stroke in children include brain damage, hearing loss and blindness.

Parents and caregivers who leave a child unattended in a parked car might not realize that even when temperatures are just in the 80s, the interior of a car with the windows cracked can heat up to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. This can be deadly for children whose small bodies succumb to heat more readily than adults.

You might wonder how a parent could be unaware of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car, but many such incidents are accidental. Some children die or are seriously injured because the parent forgets they’re carrying a baby who’s sleeping in a car seat in back. They exit and lock up the vehicle, which quickly becomes an oven-like death trap. Other incidents occur when an unsupervised child gets into a parked vehicle and isn’t able to get out.

Safe Kids Worldwide says that heat stroke is the number one cause of non-crash vehicle related fatalities and injuries in children.  They report that roughly one child dies every ten days from being left in a hot vehicle.

Safe Kid’s Worldwide has come up with a great reminder about heat stroke prevention in kids.  It’s called ACT and it goes like this:

A: Avoid injury or death from heat stroke by not ever leaving your child alone in a vehicle for any amount of time. Lock your vehicle when it’s unattended to prevent a child from getting in and getting heat stroke when they’re not able to exit the vehicle.

C: Create reminders.  Whenever you transport an infant in the back seat of the car, place your purse, briefcase or cell phone on the seat next to the baby.  That way, when you get to your destination, you’ll be sure to notice the baby when you get out of the car and retrieve your belongings.  This is especially important for a busy parent or caregiver who doesn’t usually transport the child and might forget to drop them off at day care before they go to work.

T: Take action. If you happen to spot a baby or small child left alone in a hot vehicle, don’t ignore it.  Call 911 and report it immediately so emergency personnel can respond quickly before serious injury or death.

If you see that a child is in distress, get it out of the vehicle if you’re able to, and get it to a cool spot immediately.  Notify emergency personnel immediately so they can take proper action to ensure the child’s safety.

Other tips from NHTSA include always checking the back of your vehicle before you exit, just to be on the safe side.  Request that your child care person call you immediately if your child doesn’t show up on schedule. And finally, always keep your vehicle locked when it’s parked – even in your driveway – and instruct your kids never to get inside a vehicle when you’re not with them.