Heatstroke: A reminder to protect kids

Heatstroke can kill in minutes

Sweltering summer weather is visiting much of the country and with it a growing danger to kids: vehicular heatstroke. To help raise awareness, on July 31st, NHTSA is engaging in an all-day social media conversation designed to inform the public about the dangers that heatstroke can pose to kids left in cars.  Every 15 minutes, starting at 7 a.m. EST, the agency will be using the hashtags #heatstrokekills and #checkforbaby on all of its social media posts. Learn more

Vehicular heatstroke happens when a child is left or trapped inside a car or truck. The temperature inside a vehicle can quickly rise high enough to kill a child—even when it doesn’t feel that hot outside. Understanding how and why these tragedies happen is the key to protecting America’s children.

It Happens to Good Parents: In the vast majority of vehicular heatstroke deaths between 1998 and 2016, the child was mistakenly left in or gained access to the vehicle when unsupervised. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable by believing this can only happen to irresponsible parents. These tragedies can and do happen to people like you.

It Happens Fast: In 10 minutes a car can heat up by 20 degrees. Even on a mild day the temperature inside a vehicle can hit 110 degrees. If a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, that child will die. 

Since 1998, we’ve lost 7321 children to heatstroke tragedies—32 this year alone. We all need to be on guard to protect kids. Follow these tips:

  • Look Before You Lock: Get into the routine of always checking the back seats of your vehicle before you lock it and walk away.
  • A Gentle Reminder. 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 your phone, briefcase, or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.
  • A Routine Check. If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely. Set a reminder on your phone to call and check in.
  • A Key to Safety. Keep your vehicle locked and keep your keys out of reach; nearly 3 in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle. 
  • Act to Save a Life: You should act if you see a child alone in a vehicle. Call law enforcement immediately and free the child from the vehicle to protect that child’s life.

Research is still underway into technologies that may one day alert a driver that a child is being left alone in a vehicle. For now, it’s still up to us to prevent heatstroke deaths and injuries. If you’re a parent who has ever felt tired and overwhelmed (and what parent hasn’t?) then heatstroke can happen in your family. 

Now that you know the facts, take action to protect children and to prevent heatstroke tragedies.

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1 As of Tuesday August 8.