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Healthy Headlines: A summer warning — Hot cars and children are a dangerous combination

St. Elizabeth Healthcare

In today’s connected age, it’s easy to become distracted. Even the most loving and attentive parents make mistakes – including unintentionally leaving their child in the car.

As summer begins to heat up, so do the interiors of our vehicles. If you have a little one in your car, it’s essential to take a few minutes to review vehicular heatstroke information – your child’s life could depend on it.

According to the National Safety Council, 52 children died in hot cars in 2018, the deadliest year on record in more than two decades. More than 800 children have died in heatstroke-related vehicular deaths since 1998.

Photo provided by St. Elizabeth Healthcare

Heatstroke in Children: What You Need to Know

Children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults because their core body temperate rises fast – three to five times faster than adults. When a child is in a hot vehicle, their body temperate will quickly increase, turning it into a deadly situation. Heatstroke begins when the body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees. A core body temperature of 107 is lethal.

Imagine that your car is a greenhouse. The car temperature can rise 20 degrees in the first ten minutes, which is why it’s so uncomfortable to sit in a non-moving car even for just a few minutes. For children, this uncomfortable feeling will quickly escalate into a lethal situation. Heatstroke is the number one cause of non-crash/non-traffic related vehicular deaths in children 14 and under.

Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention Tips

The National Safety Council has compiled a list of tips to help prevent accidentally leaving a child in the car. Top suggestions include:

▪ Make a routine – do the same car routine every day to make sure you don’t forget your child in the car.

▪ Always check your backseat – even if you don’t have your children with you, check your backseat.

▪ Put something you need in the backseat – your purse, employee badge, a computer, even a shoe.

▪ Ask for a call – request that your child’s babysitter or childcare provider call you if your child hasn’t arrived on schedule.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 54% of the children who died from heatstroke were accidently left in the car by caregivers.

“No parent ever thinks they will forget their baby or child in a car – they simply can’t imagine how someone could do that,” says Tabatha Biddle, Maternal Child Health Education Specialist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “But great parents can forget a sleeping child in their backseat – it can happen to anyone.”

If you see a child unattended in a car, make sure they are responsive and immediately request assistance to locate the parents. If the child is non-responsive, call 911 and follow the dispatcher’s instructions. It’s worth noting that Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana all have “Good Samaritan” laws if the dispatcher instructs you to get the child out of the car.

Remember that cars can look like a playground to children. Never allow your children to climb around inside of the car. It’s also a good habit to keep your vehicle locked in the driveway or garage to ensure a child isn’t able to get inside to play and possibly suffer from heatstroke. Make sure your children know from an early age that cars are off-limits for playing or hiding in.

Learn more

For more information about vehicular heatstroke prevention in our community, please contact St. Elizabeth Healthcare Maternal Child Health Education Department at (859) 301-9470. If you’d like to discuss safety strategies with your child’s pediatrician, call St. Elizabeth Physicians at (859) 344-5390 to set up an appointment today.

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