May 23 is National Heat Awareness Day. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. Safety specialist, registered nurse and mom Corri Miller-Hobbs of Safe Kids Virginia wants to be sure all are aware of the following facts about this dangerous condition and committed to following the expert-recommended safety tips listed below to keep children safe.
The facts about heatstroke
Heatstroke is a serious medical condition that can occur when the body’s temperature rises too high as a result of excessive heat exposure and the body loses its ability to cool itself and overheats. Safercar.gov, a National Highway Safety Transportation Association website focused on children’s car safety, shares some eye-opening facts about heatstroke risks for children left in cars:
- Children overheat up to five times faster than adults.
- In 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees.
- Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, a car’s inside temperature can reach 110 degrees.
- A child dies when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
- Opening windows will not prevent heatstroke.
- Heatstroke happens even on cloudy days and in outside temperatures below 70 degrees.
The warning signs of heatstroke include:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
- No sweating
- A strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
- Confusion or strange behavior
Seek immediate medical care if a child displays these or other warning signs of heatstroke.
Safety measures to prevent child heatstroke in cars
Leaving a child alone in a car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke. These tragedies are completely preventable. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends taking ACTion to prevent heatstroke. Here’s how we can all work together to keep kids safe from heatstroke:
A: Avoid heatstroke–related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own. Be sure to keep keys and remote opener out of children’s sight and reach. Teach children that trunks are for transporting cargo and are not safe places to play.
C: Create reminders to be sure you do not accidentally leave your child in the car by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, an employee ID badge, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. You can also create a calendar reminder for your electronic devices to make sure you dropped your child off at day care or other regular stops.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
The KidandCars.org heatstroke safety campaign centers on reminding drivers to always “Look Before You Lock.” The following tips from kidsandcars.org focus on additional ways to make sure a child always makes it safely out of the vehicle:
- Ask your babysitter or child care provider to call you within 10 minutes if your child hasn’t arrived on time. Many children’s lives could have been saved with a telephone call from a concerned child care provider.
- Make arrangements with your child’s day care center or babysitter that you will always call if your child will not be there as scheduled. Give child care providers all your telephone numbers, including that of an extra family member or friend, so they can always confirm the whereabouts of your child.
- Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. Move it from the car seat to the front seat to remind you when your baby is in the back seat.
- Every time you park your vehicle open the back door to make sure no one has been left behind.
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately.
- Be especially careful about keeping children safe in and around cars during busy times, schedule changes, and periods of crisis or holidays.
On average, every eight days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. Taking ACTion, looking before you lock, and educating ourselves and others about the risks of leaving a child in the car are ways we can work together to reduce this number and keep all children safe.