Kids Die, But Shouldn’t, When Left Alone inside Cars That Overheat

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Photo: KidsandCars.org

 

We’ve all heard the warnings/cautions: Don’t leave kids or pets in cars when temperatures are high. Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in  children, says that every eight days a child dies from heatstroke from being left in a car that got too hot. That’s inexcusable, and totally preventable, the group says.

Sometimes parents forget little ones are in the car if the kids have fallen asleep. Other times, people think they just have to go into a store for a few minutes. But, young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adults, Safe Kids Worldwide says.

Heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle related deaths among children, the group noted.

To protect young children from dying of heatstroke in a car, parents and other caregivers need to remember to “ACT.”

  • Avoid heat stroke by never leaving children alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your car when you’re not in it so children don’t get in on their own.
  • Create reminders that your child is in the car by putting something next to your child in the back seat, such as a briefcase, purse or cell phone that you’ll need when you arrive at your destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your usual routine.
  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Doing so could save a life.

The alarm to parents and caregivers to never leave a child alone in a car sounded louder during a week in 2012 after three more children died of heatstroke in cars. As summer temperatures reach record highs across the country, as tey are doing again this year, these preventable tragedies remind us to be even more vigilant to prevent heatstroke from killing another child.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of 14. Since 1998, 545 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke, including 18 children this year.

More than half of these deaths occur when a driver forgets that the child is in the car. Experts will tell you this can happen to anybody. Our busy lifestyles create enough stress to trigger mental “lapses,” which can bury a thought and cause your brain to go on autopilot. The lapses can affect something as simple as misplacing your keys or something as crucial as forgetting a baby.

Almost 30 percent of the time, children get into a car on their own. Kids love to pretend they’re driving. They find a way into the car, but sometimes, they can’t find a way out.

The third scenario is when someone intentionally leaves a child alone in a car. A parent might be running an errand and think, “The baby just fell asleep. I’ll just be gone for a second.” But seconds turn into minutes, and before you know it, the temperature inside of the car has reached lethal levels.

Many people are shocked to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes. You can only imagine what happens when the temperature outside is 100 degrees or more, as it has been in many places around the country this summer. And cracking the window doesn’t help.

Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. When that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die. Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states. These tragedies can happen anytime, anywhere.

Two years ago, 49 children died in cars from heatstroke. Last year, one of the hottest years on record, we lost 33 children. Losing one child is one too many.