Our hearts go out to the many families that have faced the unthinkable tragedy of the death of a child due to heat stroke from being left in a vehicle. According to NoHeatStroke.org,
42 children have died of vehicular heat stroke in 2017
7 children have died of vehicular heat stroke in 2018 to date
In most cases, a parent or other caregiver didn’t realize that the child was still in the car when they left the vehicle. Last year, a father in Texas found out that when he went to pick up his toddler from childcare after a church service, his son had been left in the car and was unresponsive when he found him.
How can this happen?
It may be easy to say, “I wouldn’t do this.” However, accidents have happened simply because a parent had some sort of change in their regular routine. Ever go on “autopilot” while driving and forget that you are driving to a different place than usual…or realize you were even thinking about where you were driving; next thing you know, you’re just there? Caregivers may have distractions and unexpected issues pop up.
Plus, from the driver’s seat, a rear facing car seat looks the same with or without a child.
In other cases, the child got into the vehicle without the parents’ knowledge and getting stuck.
In some cases, the parents knowingly left the child in the car without realizing the potential harm. They may be stopping to run a “quick” errand.
What is important to realize is that, even if it does not seem hot, there are still risks of heat stroke:
In only 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can raise by 19 minutes
In a half hour, the temperature can raise 34 degrees
After two hours, the temperature can raise 50 degrees.
(data from a car temperature study, starting at 72 degrees)
A child’s body heats up 3 to 5 times faster than an adults.
(Their thermoregulatory system is not as efficient.)
How can you avoid this? Consider these tips:
9 tips to avoid child heat stroke (from NoHeatstroke.com)
- NEVER LEAVE A CHILD UNATTENDED IN A VEHICLE. NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE !
- IF YOU SEE A CHILD UNATTENDED IN A HOT VEHICLE CALL 9-1-1.
- Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
- Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
- Teach children that vehicles are never to be used as a play area.
- IF A CHILD IS MISSING, ALWAYS CHECK THE POOL FIRST, AND THEN THE CAR, INCLUDING THE TRUNK.
- Keep a stuffed animal in the carseat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver. Or place your purse, briefcase or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
- Make “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car.
- Have a plan that your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up for school.