Heatstroke is the second leading cause of death for children (after car crashes) and it is the most preventable. Over half of the deaths reported of children left in hot cars were because their caregivers forgot the child was still in the car.
Over-tired, over-stressed, pre-occupied, changes in routine, running late, you-name-it, there are many reasons why folks get overwhelmed during their day-to-day routines. When you think about how many times we put our kid in and take them out of their car seats it’s scary how quickly we switch to autopilot. But it’s also a horrible fact that during all of these routine trips, there is no room for even one mistake.
Vehicles heat up fast and leaving the window down actually doesn’t make enough of a difference in the inside temperature. A child’s body temperature rises 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s, and once their core body temperature gets to 104 degrees it can cause permanent damage. Heatstroke can happen on a cloudy day. Heatstroke can happen when the outside temperatures is as low as 57 degrees, that’s how much a car can heat up inside. And if you think that parking in the shade will help, heatstroke has killed children in cars parked in shaded areas with outside temps as low as 80 degrees or less.
With heatstroke, there are no second chances. Check out this handy tip sheet from NHTSA and put some safety check systems in place to help remind you where your child is. There are great ideas from setting yourself a reminder on your phone, to keeping your purse in the backseat, to calling your partner as soon as you drop off baby, to downloading apps that help remind you that baby is in the car. Car seat makers are even installing devices in infant car seats that transmit signals to your car to chime a reminder beep if you turn off the engine and don’t unbuckle baby from her seat.
The sad truth is, they’ve been tracking the number of child vehicular heatstroke deaths since 1998 and we’ve really made very little progress in bringing the numbers down. Our lives are busy and complicated, let’s help each other look for little ways we can help keep our kids safe and look out for one another as caregivers too. And if you see a stressed out or sleepless mom or dad, share with them some reminder tips that work for you.
For more information on heatstroke prevention check out these links:
Check out Parents Central the National Highway Traffic Safety Administraton’s website loaded with tips and information for helping parents and caregivers keep kids safe. They have a whole page dedicated to heatstroke prevention.
Also, take a look at the “No Heatstroke” campaign. This website created by the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, at San Jose State University is filled with statistics and helpful information (and they are the creators of the handy infographic in this post).