(9/04/12) - Although Labor Day signals the end of summer for many, parents must continue
to be diligent and never leave children alone in vehicles. So far this year, 23 children have died from hyperthermia, also known as heat stroke, while unattended in vehicles in states all across the country. Moreover, in the first seven days of August alone, eight children died of hyperthermia.
"We know from past experiences that these fatalities can happen throughout the year, including September and October, when temperatures are still warm enough to pose danger in many parts of the country," said Ashley Costas, Injury Prevention Specialist for Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal. "In past years, as many as 12 deaths have occurred after September 1."
It doesn't have to be the middle of summer for a child to get overheated. Even with seemingly mild temperatures outside, the temperatures inside a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. Children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults', making them more susceptible to suffer from heat stroke.
"No one thinks a good parent could possibly forget their child—but then it happens to you or to someone you know," says Dr. Norman Collins, a grandfather who lost his grandson when his son thought someone else was getting the child from the vehicle. "One miscommunication or momentary lapse will define the rest of your life. I want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else." In fact, more than half of the reported heat stroke deaths occur when a distracted caregiver forgets their child is in the car. This tragedy transcends all demographics and can truly happen to anyone—even in the most conscientious of us. It's easy to become distracted when you are a new parent and are sleep deprived or when your routine is disrupted. This is why it is so important to be aware, create reminders and take action when you see a child unattended in a vehicle.
Too many children have lost their lives to this preventable, heartbreaking tragedy. Together, we can reduce the number of deaths and near-misses by remembering to Look Before You Lock and ACT.
Avoid heat stroke-related injury and death by:
• Never leaving your child alone in the car, even for a minute.
• Consistently locking unattended vehicle doors and trunks.
Create reminders and habits that give you and your child's caregiver a safety net:
• Establish a peace-of-mind plan. When you drop off your child, make a habit of calling or texting all other caregivers, so all of you know where your child is at all times.
• Place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or an item that is needed at your next stop in the back seat.
• Set the alarm on your cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop off your child at childcare.
Take action if you see an unattended child in a vehicle:
• Dial 911 immediately and follow the instructions that emergency personnel provide—they are trained to determine if a child is in danger.
For more information about motor vehicle safety, call Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal at (843) 777-5021 to speak to an Injury Prevention Specialist or visit www.McLeodSafeKids.org.
Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal, led by McLeod Health, works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading cause of death in children 14 and under. Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is funded in part by the McLeod Health Foundation.