As temperatures climb outside it is crucial to never leave a child in a hot car.
More than 800 children have died in hot cars since 1990 – Twelve child deaths have already been reported in 2018. The deaths have led to a nationwide campaign by Kids and Cars urging drivers to “look before you lock.”
Heatstroke is the number one killer of children, outside of car crashes, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes. Two-thirds of the increase in temperature in a car happens in the first 20 minutes.
Changes in routine, lack of sleep and other factors can lead to parents becoming distracted — increasing the risk of forgetting children in the back seat.
Typically, when parents leave their child in the vehicle they are stressed out, off schedule, out of routine, tired and distracted. Conscientious parents can become distracted especially when over tired or if there has been a major change to the routine.
There are steps parents can take to help prevent a tragedy.
Leaving the house early so you are not rushed to get your child to daycare and to work on time can help. Many nationwide campaigns encourage parents to put something they need in the backseat of their car so even if they are off routine, they will see the child in the backseat and not forget them. Consider leaving a shoe, cell phone, purse or wallet in the back seat beside your child.
Infants are not the only ones at risk of the danger hot cars pose — older children are also at risk. Children may use vehicles as a place to hide, not realizing the danger. Parents are encouraged to lock their vehicles, even when parked in a garage, to prevent children from entering vehicles without parent knowledge.
If you witness a child in a hot car, call law enforcement immediately. Warning signs of heatstroke include:
- Red, hot and moist or dry skin — no sweating
- A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, 911 should be called immediately. The child should be sprayed with cool water or with a garden hose but never placed in an ice bath.
AAA Kansas urges all parents and caregivers to do these things:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended
- Make it a habit to look in the back seat every time you exit the car
- If you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away
If you have concerns about heatstroke, dehydration, or other emergency health concerns, The Newman Regional Health Emergency Department is available to provide medical assistance.