With Memorial Day and the start of summer right around the corner, it’s an appropriate time to remind parents and caregivers that children are extremely vulnerable to heatstroke when left unattended in hot cars. Taking the time to learn how to safeguard children from car heatstroke may be the most important activity you do today.

The statistics on child deaths from heatstroke are brutal – and totally preventable. According to Safe Kids USA, more than 500 children across the United States have died from hyperthermia (heatstroke) in cars since 1998. That’s about 33 deaths per year. Some states have a higher reported child fatality record than others. For example, of the 33 child heatstroke deaths in cars reported in 2011, eight occurred in Texas. The record number of Texas child heatstroke deaths occurred in 2010, with 12 of 49 cases occurring in the Lone Star State.

What’s even more tragic is that more than half of these annual child heatstroke deaths occurred because the parent or caregiver forgot the child was in the vehicle before leaving to go into work, shopping or tend to other errands.  Other reasons for the child fatalities were that the child became trapped when playing inside the vehicle, or the parents or other caregivers intentionally left the child alone in the car for just a few minutes.

It may not seem all that hot outside, but the fact is that a child can suffer heatstroke and die when left inside a car on a 72-degree day. That’s because small children’s bodies heat up five times faster than an adult’s. And, it only takes a very short time for the car’s interior to heat up. How short? In 10 minutes or less, the inside of the car can heat up 20 degrees – and the temperature continues to rise after that.

How to safeguard children from car heatstroke really is a matter of remembering to ACT:

Avoid child heatstroke injury and death by

Never leaving your child alone in a car unattended, even for just a few minutes

Consistently checking unattended cars to ensure doors and trunks are locked

Create reminders and habits to provide a “safety net” for your child by

  • Establishing a “peace of mind” plan by calling or texting all other caregivers when you drop off your child at daycare, so the whereabouts of your child is always known
  • Place needed items in back seat so that you have to look in the back seat to retrieve them before you exit and leave the vehicle. These items may include your purse, cell phone, tablet, briefcase or gym bag
  • Set an alarm on your cell phone or calendar on our computer to remind you to drop off your child at daycare
  • Take Action whenever you see an unattended child left in a vehicle. The best thing to do is to dial 911 and let the operator know the location and circumstances. The 911 operator is trained to deal with these types of circumstances and can immediately summon emergency personnel and/or give instructions you should follow if they determine the child is in imminent danger.

    Remember that it only takes a few seconds to do the right thing to safeguard your children from car heatstroke. Get into the habit of ACTing in a responsible and loving manner and you can help prevent a tragedy that you’ll never forgive yourself for.

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