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Baby Safety: hot car deaths

As temperatures climb outside it is crucial to never leave a child in a hot car.

The nonprofit group KidsandCars.org said more than 1,000 children have died in hot cars across the country since 1990, and at least 26% of those deaths have happened when a child gets into a vehicle on their own. 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.

Change the routine, and leave cues

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.

Temperatures rise in cars fast

Everyone Can Help Prevent Hot Car Deaths

Parents and Caregivers

1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended — even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on.

2. Make it a habit to check your entire vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away. Train yourself to Park, Look, Lock, or always ask yourself, Where’s Baby?

3. Ask your childcare provider to call if your child doesn’t show up for care as expected. 

4. Place a personal item like a purse or briefcase in the back seat, as another reminder to look before you lock. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the back seat.

5. Store car keys out of a child’s reach and teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.

6. Always lock your car doors and trunk, year-round, so children can’t get into unattended vehicles

Act Fast. Save a Life

If you see a child alone in a locked car, get them out immediately and call 911. A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled. Read the NHTSA Advice

Warning signs of heatstroke include:

  • Red, hot and moist or dry skin — no sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

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.

A 2-year-old child who died in southeastern Kansas had woken up from a nap, unlocked the home’s front door and gotten into the family vehicle, sheriff’s officials said.

Investigators say the mother found the child unconscious Tuesday. The child was transported to a hospital where he died.

Cowley County Sheriff David Falletti said in a news release that a preliminary autopsy finding determined the child died due to extreme heat exposure.

Associated Press, August 12, 2021

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Emporia, KS 66801
620-343-6800
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1301 W 12th Avenue
Emporia, KS 66801
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