Heatstroke Prevention – Kids and Cars

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Today, Wednesday, July 31st is National Heatstroke Prevention Day.  Please help spread the awareness of this completely preventable tragedy by sharing this information to your friends and family. We all have daily distractions and our routines are often affected. In approximately 54% cases of heatstroke, the caregiver unknowingly or accidentally left the child in the vehicle.

It Can Happen To Anyone…

In the United States from 2003-2012, 384 children have died resulting from heatstroke in hot cars. That averages out to be 38 per year or about 1 in every 10 days. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicular deaths for young children under the age of 14 years.

Vehicular heatstroke can happen within minutes, even with the windows open a few inches and sitting in the shade. A child’s body doesn’t have the same ability to control their internal temperature as an adult, absorbing heat 3 to 5 times faster. Heatstroke begins when the child’s internal body core temperature reaches 104 degrees F which can cause permanent injury or even death.  An internal core temperature of 107 degrees F is usually fatal.

The temperature inside a vehicle can raise almost 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature within the first 10 minutes. Even with outside temperatures being as low as 57 degrees, heatstroke can occur.  Darker interiors and seats also absorb heat causing hotter temperatures as well.

What Do We Look For? 

Symptoms of heatstroke can vary, but common signs to look for:

  • Red, hot and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or slow weak pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Being grouchy or acting strangely

How Do We Prevent?

Simple safety tips to prevent heatstroke:

  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes with the windows open.
  • Get into the habit of walking around the car looking in the front and back seats EVERY TIME before locking doors and walking away from vehicle.
  • Ask your child care provider to call you if you child doesn’t arrive by their normal time.
  • Put something to remind you of your child i.e. window decal, a personal note, stuffed toy on the seat, put your purse or work keys in the back of the vehicle, etc.
  • Remain focused.  Don’t become distracted by talking on the phone or by other activities while driving
  • Teach children not to play in or around your vehicles.  Keep all vehicle doors locked even when parked in the driveway/garage.  Keep your car keys out of reach of children.
  • If your child is missing, always look inside vehicle including the trunk.  In about 30% of the heatstroke cases, a child got into the vehicle themselves.

If you should see a child unattended in a hot car, call 911 immediately and get the child out and start cooling them with cool water as quickly as possible.

 Article provided by Karen ‘Kiki’ Joslin.  Kiki owns and operates 411 Safety Shop & Training.  She is a life-long resident of the Des Moines area. For over 25 years, Kiki has been ensuring proper care and safety for children of all ages in the Des Moines metro area. Her child safety advocacy experience allowed her to create this unique business. As an EMT-I, Child Passenger Safety Technician, and an in home child-proofer, Kiki brings her expertise under one roof to truly offer a one stop safety shop for parents to receive valuable advice and training. As a child care provider herself, Kiki has made it her mission to educate central Iowa’s child care providers and parents in CPR, first aid, and home safety.

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