07/19/2024

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On Monday, authorities reported that a 5-year-old Texas boy died after being left in a sweltering car for several hours while the child’s family prepared for his sibling’s birthday party.

Police say a 3-month-old boy died earlier this month in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, after being left in his parents’ car for “several hours. In May, an unresponsive 1-year-old was found in a car outside a daycare center in Memphis, Tenn. The 1-year-old was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead; the temperature in Memphis that day was 91 degrees.

Hot car deaths typically increase during the summer months, but experts warn they can happen at any time in temperatures that may be lower than people expect.

Dr. Kira Sieplinga, a pediatric resident at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Michigan, told Parents Today, “Heat stroke can occur when it’s as low as 57 degrees outside, and it only takes 10 minutes for a car to warm up by 20 degrees Fahrenheit.” .

“There’s really no safe time to leave a child in a car,” Sieplinga added. “And children warm up three to five times faster than adults.”

Hot car deaths are everywhere
According to the National Safety Council, an average of 38 children have died each year in the United States from hot cars since 1998. In the recent past, however, hot car deaths in the U.S. hit an all-time high.

In 2018 and 2019, 53 children died in hot cars – “an all-time high,” according to Amy Atuso, senior program manager for mobile safety at the National Safety Council. Twenty-five children died from hot cars in 2020 and 23 the following year. Artuso said fewer people commuting to work and daycare during the pandemic may have contributed to the decrease.

In some hot car accidents, parents forget their children are in the car and accidentally leave them inside. In other cases, children climb into the vehicle and become trapped. Then some parents don’t realize that leaving a child in the car even for a few minutes can lead to heat stroke and death. Most parents don’t leave their children in the car because they are bad or negligent, experts say.

“(It’s) usually not malicious. That said, more often than not, people think they’re just running an emergency and don’t realize that children are three to five times more likely to develop heat-related illnesses than adults, and their bodies don’t cool down as quickly as adults do. adults,” Atuso told Parents Today. “These deaths happen in every month of the year. It’s not just a matter of warm weather months.”

Even leaving windows open doesn’t help kids, who heat up faster than adults.

“They can’t cope with that change in temperature,” Cipringa said. “The greatest risk of death occurs when a child overheats.”

Related Story: Hot Car Deaths: 7 Tips to Prevent Children from Dying in a Hot Car

She added that while hot car deaths are thought to occur primarily in the South, children die from heat stroke in cars in every state.

“Even for those of us in northern climates, like Michigan, we still have warm days,” Cipringa said. “That greenhouse effect does increase the temperature in the car.”

How to help children in a hot car
What should people do if they find a child in their car?

Experts first recommend trying to find the car’s owner. If the car is in a grocery store or shopping center, people may want to go inside and ask for a bulletin to find the car’s owner. If the car is on the street, people can ask other bystanders if they saw where the owner went.

But if the owner can’t be found, people should call 911 and consider getting into the car – especially if the child is unresponsive, has stopped sweating and has red skin.

“Twenty-one states have unattended child laws, and many more have Good Samaritan laws,” Atuso said. “In this case, we want to encourage people to take action, even if it does mean breaking windows to let children out.”

Cipringa agreed.

“If we see a child in a car unattended, we still have a responsibility,” she said. “You really should tell 911 that this could be an emergency, let them know what’s going on, and then consider getting the child out of the car – especially if they’re not responding.”

After getting a child out of a hot car, help cool them down and take them to a cool or shaded area.

“If you do feel your child is at risk for heat stroke, spray them with cool water or use a cool, wet rag to cool them down and stay with them until help arrives,” Sipringa advises. “Don’t use ice because it puts them at risk for frostbite or injury.”

Children who go to the hospital for heat stroke often need cooler conditions and intravenous fluids to help them rehydrate. Parents should seek help for a child they suspect may have heatstroke if they notice any of the following symptoms, including:
Pretending to be confused

Changes in mental status

Acting lethargic and disoriented

Dizziness and lightheadedness

Complaints of visual changes

Headaches

The National Safety Council offers a free online course that takes about 15 minutes to complete and provides education about hot rodding and children.

“It’s important for everyone to become more familiar with this condition because 100 percent of these deaths are preventable,” Atuso said. “It just raises awareness of what can happen to anyone.”

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