Vehicle heatstroke

Every year I send out an informational article to our county residents about the importance of not leaving your young/infant children in your vehicle unattended — especially with warmer temperatures coming our way.

One child death is too many when it comes to this totally preventable tragedy. A few years ago, I attended a safety conference and spoke with a mother who had lost her infant child due to heatstroke. She only went into the store for a short amount of time and when she came out, her infant had perished due to the high temperatures that had escalated on a sunny day. She now regularly speaks at conferences so people can know first-hand how a simple mistake has affected her life.

Now, with the COVID-19 precautions, there are more concerns about unattended small children and infants in vehicles. Parents feel that if they leave the vehicle running with the AC on or the windows cracked open, that is acceptable. I’m sorry to say that it is not — if the engine quit, temperature’s can soar in a matter of minutes in direct sun. Best case scenario is to make sure to have an older adult or family member supervise the children, or make sure to leave them with a qualified care giver or family member.

By statistic, a child dies from heatstroke about once every 10 days from being left unattended in a hot vehicle. Heatstroke is the number one leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children under the age of 15. These types of child deaths are 100 percent preventable.

Vehicle heatstroke occurs when a child is left in a hot vehicle, allowing for the child’s temperature to rise in a quick and deadly manner.

The Greenhouse Effect in Vehicles

The inside of a vehicle heats up very quickly! Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in minutes. Cracking the windows does not help slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature. Eighty percent of the increase in temperature happens in the first 10 minutes. Children have died from heatstroke in cars in temps as low as 60 degrees.

A child’s body absorbs more heat on a hot day than an adult — just because we do not feel the effects of the heat, it doesn’t mean the children are okay. High body temperature can cause a child permanent injury or even death. Ten minutes is all the time it takes for a car to reach deadly temperatures. Remember to never leave your child alone in a vehicle — even for short periods of time.

The children that have died from vehicular heatstroke in the United States (1998-October 2016) have ranged in age from five days to 14 years. More than half of the deaths are children under two years of age. Below are the percentage of total (695) deaths (and the number of deaths).

• 54 percent of child death heatstroke cases, the child was “forgotten” by caregivers.

• 27 percent of child heatstroke cases, the kids got in the vehicles on their own.

• 18 percent children were intentionally left in the vehicles by an adult.

• 1 percent were unknown circumstances.

Signs of heatstroke:

• Red, hot and moist or dry skin;

• No sweating;

• A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse;

• Throbbing headache;

• Dizziness;

• Nausea;

• Confusion;

• Being grouchy or acting strangely.

We are asking the public’s assistance in helping to prevent these types of tragedies from happening. Be aware when in parking lots, garages and anywhere vehicles may be parked. Be on the lookout for any small children left unattended in vehicles. Notify law enforcement at once by calling 911, and stay with the vehicle until help arrives. A reminder that pets also are susceptible to heat strokes in vehicles, just like children.

With the higher summer temperatures on the way, we’re also reminding everyone that, in addition to keeping an eye out for children at risk, the elderly and those with medical issues need proper care as well. If you have an elderly neighbor or relative, check on them often during days with high temperatures, make sure the have fans, AC, etc. that is needed to keep them comfortable. Regular fluid intake is a must — stay away from alcohol and caffeine.


John Merchant21 Posts

John Merchant currently serves as Brown County (Kansas) Sheriff.


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