Share The Health

Preventing Tragedy - Heatstroke Related Deaths

07-21-2016

The school year has ended, vacation and summer camp plans are in full swing, and your normal routine is probably being thrown for a loop. That can only mean one thing; summer has officially arrived in Frederick County.

Rising temperatures and more time spent outdoors can lead to increased instances of heat related injury or death; and a recent news story of a child wondering outside and getting into an unlocked car serves as a sobering reminder of how dangerous summer temperatures can be.

When your body isn’t able to cool itself down quickly enough, heatstroke begins to set in. Children are more susceptible to heatstroke because their bodies heat up approximately 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, on an 80 degree day the temperature inside of a car can rise almost 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and will keep rising with each passing minute. It’s important to note that cracking the window doesn’t help with regulating interior vehicle temperature.

Busy parents can sometimes be tempted to leave a sleeping child in the car "for just a minute" while they run into the store, or perhaps a child sleeps so quietly in the backseat that we forget they are even there. As summer progresses and school or daycare routines change, it’s important to develop a strategy for avoiding the possibility of heatstroke related injuries and deaths.

Never leave a child alone in a car - You can easily avoid heatstroke related injuries and deaths by never leaving a child alone in a car - even for a minute. Vehicles heat up quickly and children can’t regulate their body temperature as well as adults. Even on a pleasant 80 degree day, it doesn’t take long for a car’s interior temperature to reach deadly levels, and when a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, they die.

Lock your vehicle regardless of where you’re parked – To ensure that children don’t get into your vehicle when it’s parked, keep it locked. Unbeknownst to parents or caregivers, children sometimes sneak into cars to play or hide. By keeping your vehicle locked, you can prevent this from occurring. If you have children, remind them that vehicles and trunks are not safe places to play, and think about keeping your keys out of their reach.

Create a reminder – Place your purse, briefcase, cell phone, or other important item that you need to start your day, in the backseat with your child. This reminder is especially important if you’re deviating from your normal routine. When you reach your final destination, you’ll be sure to check your backseat, and avoid accidentally leaving a child in the car. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, since 1998 more than half of heatstroke fatalities occurred when a distracted caregiver forgot their child was in the car. By creating a simple reminder, you can prevent this from happening to you.

Use your network – Most parents have cell phones with alarm capabilities. It’s easy to create a daily alarm that will remind you to double check that your child was dropped off at daycare. Parents can also use the help of daycare providers by setting up a plan for a phone call if your child is late for morning drop off. This type of plan is especially important if your daycare routine has recently changed.

Get Help – If you’re walking through a parking lot or neighborhood and see a child left alone in a vehicle, call 911 right away, and follow any instructions provided by emergency personnel. Children in distress should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled down.

Heatstroke deaths are a tragedy that can happen to any parent. A survey conducted in 2014 revealed shocking statistics relating to parents and caregivers leaving children unattended inside of a vehicle. Results from the 2014 survey showed that 14% of parents have intentionally left their child alone in a parked vehicle. For parents of children three and under, that percentage grew to 23%. Forgetting a child inside of a parked car is a real issue effecting 11% of parents, and for parents of children age three and under, the chances increase to 25%. Additionally, of those parents surveyed, 6% of parents were comfortable letting their child stay in a parked vehicle for longer than 15 minutes.

Remember, heatstroke tragedies are 100% preventable. By implementing and sharing these tips, you can do your part in avoiding such a tragic event.

To learn more about Safe Kids Worldwide and preventing heatstroke, you can visit safekids.org/heatstroke.