Save Kids: Stop Heatstroke

You’ve likely seen it on the local news: a child dies from heatstroke after being left inside a hot vehicle. And you’ve probably thought, “Who would leave a child alone in a car?” Asking that question is the first mistake that can lead to a heatstroke tragedy in your family.

Believe it: in the vast majority of heatstroke cases a child is mistakenly left in a vehicle or gains access to a vehicle when unsupervised and becomes trapped. If you’re a parent of a young child who has ever found yourself forgetful during the course of a busy day of work and family obligations, or if you’ve left your vehicle unlocked at home, you’re at risk for a heatstroke tragedy.

Just this month in Houston, a 9-month-old girl died after being mistakenly left in a vehicle. The sad story had themes consistent with other heatstroke cases: parents in a rush; a trip to daycare or to run errands; a child mistakenly left in a car seat; a child later found, but too late. In a similar case last month, this time in Chesterfield, Virginia, a father drove his wife to work but forgot they’d taken their twins with them when he returned home. Hours later, his wife called for a ride back and he realized his horrific mistake. Both infants died.

With warmer weather spreading across the country, please remember that heatstroke tragedies can happen to anyone. It doesn’t need to be a hot day; when the temperature outside is as low as 60 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees. If a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, that child will die. On average, 37 children die each year from vehicular heatstroke, according to noheatstroke.org.

Now that you know the truth about heatstroke, you can protect your family. Follow these tips:

  • Look Before You Lock. Get into the routine of always checking the back seat of your vehicle before your 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 backseat 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.
  • 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 Fast to Save a Life. If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 911. Chances are the child was left by mistake. If the child appears in distress or is non-responsive, remove the child from the vehicle and spray the child with cool water.

A heatstroke tragedy can happen to any family at any time. You now know how to prevent it. Put these tips into action today and together we can stop needless heatstroke deaths.