Child Heatstroke in Cars

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Since 1998, more than 700 children nationwide have died from heatstroke while left unattended in vehicles. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness provides safety information for parents and families to help prevent child heatstroke in cars.

Heatstroke Prevention: Look Before You Lock

Ever wonder how a child can be left in the car? You’d be surprised:

  • Lack of sleep, the stress of a busy day, or a change in the normal routine have all been reported as common causes for a parent or caregiver to lose awareness of the presence of a child in the back seat of a car, especially when the baby or child is sleeping peacefully.
  • A caregiver might be tempted to leave kids in the car to make a quick trip into a store.
  • Curious, playful children can end up alone in cars if the doors or trunk are left unlocked.

Young children are particularly at risk for heatstroke since their body’s heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. It only takes 10 minutes for the temperature inside a vehicle to rise 20 degrees — 80% of the total heat rise occurs in the first 30 minutes. If a child is left inside a hot car for even a few minutes, the consequences can be deadly. It doesn’t have to be summer for a hot car-related injury or death; the inside of a car can get up to 50 degrees higher than the outside temperature.

Reduce the Number of Deaths from Heatstroke by Remembering to ‘ACT’

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get in on their own.

C: Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure your phone, briefcase or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.

T: Take action if you see a child alone in a car by calling 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Other Methods to Prevent Heatstroke: Never Think ‘It Can’t Happen to Me’

  • Teach kids not to play in cars: Teach kids that cars and car trunks are for transportation of people and cargo only, and are not safe places to play. Always lock your vehicle doors and trunk when you’re not driving. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
  • Check vehicles and trunks immediately if your child is missing: Get kids who are locked in cars out as soon as possible. If you can’t do so quickly, call 911 right away. Emergency personnel are trained to evaluate and check for signs of heatstroke.
  • Check on yourself: If you routinely drop your child off for child care, make a plan with your child care provider to call you right away if your child doesn’t show up at the expected time.
  • Check on each other: If another parent or caregiver decides to take the child to child care and this is not the normal routine, check to make sure the child made it to the destination.

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