Children Keep On Dying In Hot Cars: What You Need To Know

By Tanya Diente, Parent Herald June 21, 12:20 am
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Children's death from vehicular heat stroke is not uncommon in the U.S., although this unfortunate incident can be avoided with the proper knowledge on prevention and practice of safety measures.

Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke

A study from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that 742 children died from pediatric vehicular heatstroke (being left in a hot car for too long) between 1998 and 2017. There were 39 and 42 reported deaths in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In 2018, there have been 13 cases so far of the tragic death. On average, 37 children die each year in the U.S. from vehicular heatstroke.

The deaths are usually unintentional, according to Lorrie Walker, a training and technical advisor at Safe Kids Worldwide. The parents are usually held accountable but this does not mean they are terrible or negligent parents. There are different reasons why any parent or guardian would forget that they have a child in the backseat, including a change in routine.

"This is just a failure of circumstance that leads to the horrendous and horrific death of their child," Walker says.

Preventive Measures

Pediatric vehicular heatstroke (PVH) can be prevented. There are safety measures that parents, guardians, or anyone can follow to ensure that they do not leave a child in the backseat. The NSC and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released reminders in an effort to minimize the alarming increase of children's death from PVH.

• Never leave a child unattended in the vehicle even for a minute.

• Learn about vehicle heating dynamics. A car turned off and closed in 80-degree weather can easily heat up by 10 degrees in the first five minutes. In an hour it will be at 123
degrees. It is a fallacy that children are safe from heatstroke or hyperthermia in any weather with the car window cracked open.

• Ensure that children do not have access to car key or key fobs. According to the NSC, almost half of PVH deaths happen from children gaining access to a vehicle on their
own. This is why it is important to teach kids that vehicles are not playgrounds.

• Make "Look Before You Lock" a habit.

• Place a reminder in the vehicle to check for a backseat passenger.

• Placed a stuffed toy in the child's car seat on days when the child is not in the car, and moving it to the front passenger seat as a reminder that there is a child in the backseat.

• Anyone who sees a child left alone in a car should call 911 immediately or break the car window.

A child's body is susceptible to heatstroke or hyperthermia because it heats up three to five times faster than an adult's. It can reach up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and this is when the major organs start to shut down. A child can die when the temperature reaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

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