They come like horrible drumbeats every summer, the news that another small child has died after being left in a hot car. Or maybe it’s an elderly or handicapped person. Each time, we think that can’t happen to us or anyone we know. But it does.
So far in 2016, 15 children have died in hot cars in the U.S. and Division Chief Ron Martin of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District is working with Safe Kids of Southwest Florida and Golisano Children’s Hospital to remind our community to keep kids safe this summer.
Children left in a car, even if the air temperature outside the car is not very warm, will suffer from heatstroke within minutes. Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when the body is unable to cool itself and body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Children are at greater risk because their body heats up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. At 104 degrees, internal organs begin to shut down. At 107 degrees, a child can die.
“But it’s only 80 degrees, and I cracked a window!”
Cracking a window will not keep the inside of a car cool. Even at lower temperatures, the sun shines in windows, heating the interior. Cloudy days aren’t any cooler inside a car. The bottom line is that the interior of a car becomes an oven and is no place for unattended children, handicapped or elderly adults.
A heating study published in Pediatrics in 2005 found that the temperature inside a car rose 19 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 20 minutes and 43 degrees in an hour. “Cracking” the windows had little effect.
Over half (54%) of child heatstroke deaths in cars result from a caregiver forgetting them. 29% occur after a child was playing in an unattended car and became trapped and 17% were intentionally left alone in the car. For every child who does not survive being left in a hot car, experts estimate there are hundreds more who survive near misses – kids who are rescued in time.
What should you do if you see a child alone in a car? Immediately dial 911. That call could save a life.
Safe Kids of Southwest Florida is raising awareness of the dangers of heatstroke in children. They urge parents, grandparents and caregivers to “ACT”
A – Avoid Heatstroke by NEVER leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. When you park it, lock your car to prevent kids from getting in on their own. Keep keys and remotes out of children’s reach.
C – Create reminders by putting something in the back seat next to the child that you’ll need at your destination, such as your purse, wallet, cell phone or left shoe.
T – Take action by calling 911 if you see a child alone in a car. One call could save a life.
Additional hints to help keep kids safe include keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat. When you put a child in the seat, move the toy to the front with the driver as a visual reminder to remove the child from the car. Make “look before you leave” a routine as you get out of the car, every time. If a child is missing, always check the pool first, then the car, including the trunk. Ask your childcare provider to call you promptly if your child is not there on time.
Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization devoted to the prevention of childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the U.S. Working with a network across the U.S. and internationally, they work to prevent traffic injuries, drowning, falls, burns, heatstroke and more. For more information visit safekids.org.