38 children die each year from being left in hot cars
LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 26, 2016) — An average of 38 children die each year after being left in a hot car, and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is working with parents to make sure that doesn’t happen here.
“A child should never, never, never be left alone in a hot car for any reason,” said Holly Clendenin, LFCHD nurse and a Child Care Health Consultant trainer. “Whether a child is intentionally left alone in a car while a parent runs inside for a few minutes or is accidentally forgotten by a caretaker, these deaths are preventable.”
A child’s body temperature can increase three to five times faster than adults, and heat stroke begins when the body passes 104 degrees. Reaching an internal temperature of 107 degrees can be deadly. Symptoms include red, hot and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, being grouchy or acting strangely.
“Simply cracking a window or parking in the shade doesn’t make a car significantly cooler,” Clendenin said. “Heat stroke deaths have occurred when the vehicle was parked in the shade. It’s also important to remember that it doesn’t have to be the hot months of summer to be dangerous – a car can reach 110 degrees inside when outdoor temperatures are only in the 60s.”
In 52 percent of the cases, the child was forgotten by the caregiver, and in 29 percent of the cases, a child got into the vehicle on their own.
Fortunately, there are some things a parent or caregiver can do to ensure this doesn’t happen:
- Make a habit of checking your back seat.
- When strapping a child into a car seat, leave a reminder like a cell phone, briefcase, purse or even your left shoe in the back with them.
- Write a note and place it on the dashboard of the car, or set a reminder on your phone or calendar. There’s also a Baby Reminder app for iPhones.
- Call a spouse, family member or friend after you drop the child off to make sure you didn’t forget.
- After parking your car, lock it. Children who get inside an unlocked vehicle can become trapped.
- Look before you lock your car.
- Never let a child play in an unattended car.
“Some of these unfortunate deaths include children whose parents/guardians meant to drop their child off at a child care program or preschool,” Clendenin said. “Make an agreement with your child care provider to call you within an hour of the expected arrival time if your child does not arrive on time.”
If you see a child in an unattended vehicle, call 911 or your local emergency number. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. If water is available, cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water, but never use an ice bath. If the child is unresponsive (not breathing or no heartbeat), start CPR immediately and continue until emergency officials arrive.
Kentucky passed a “Look Before You Lock” law that allows people to rescue kids trapped in cars without prosecution: www.lrc.ky.gov/record/16RS/SB16.htm.
For more information, be sure to visit www.usa.safekids.org/heatstroke or www.wheresbaby.org.