Outside of crashes, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the United States. That is why Safe Kids Otsego is teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in an attempt to reduce those deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of vehicular heatstroke and leaving children in hot cars.
There were 52 preventable deaths of children in vehicles in 2019. There have been 849 pediatric heat stroke deaths from 1998 to present, an average of 39 children a year.
“As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from vehicular heatstroke increases,” said Becky Sears, injury prevention coordinator at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown. “One child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days in the United States from being left in a car or crawling into an unlocked vehicle. What is most tragic is that every single one of these deaths could have been prevented.”
Safe Kids Otsego urges all parents and caregivers to do three 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.
• Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.
If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle:
• Make sure the child is OK and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
• If the child appears to be OK, attempt to find the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over a public address system.
• If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
• If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child, even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.
Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include red, hot and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of those signs after being in a hot vehicle, quickly spray the child with cool water or with a garden hose. Never put a child in an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than an adult’s, and heatstroke can occur in outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.
“More than half (54 percent) of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 26 percent are from a child getting into a hot car unsupervised,” Sears said. “We want to get the word out to parents and caregivers: please Look Before You Lock.”
To learn more about Safe Kids Otsego County, contact Sears at 607-547-3097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information in this article was provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bassett Healthcare Network.