Katrin Bost, the safety initiatives coordinator for Children’s Trust, offers life-saving information on how to keep children safe from heatstroke in cars this summer.
With the first official day of summer on tap this week, I don’t have to tell you how hot it is. The 100-degree days have arrived, and they are a fact of life in South Carolina.
Unfortunately, the dangers of heatstroke for children in vehicles rise with summer’s sweltering days. Already in 2018, there have been 15 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in the United States, and three of them have occurred in South Carolina – one each in North Charleston, Greenville and Spartanburg.
It’s important for all of us to understand the risks. Babies and young children riding in the backseat can often be so quiet, especially if they’ve fallen asleep, that parents and caregivers may forget they are there. Even the most loving of caregivers can inadvertently leave a child behind if they are distracted or stressed.
Some people may believe it’s OK to run a quick errand in the store without taking their child along. But everyone should know this: Don’t ever leave a child alone in a car – even for a minute.
As the South Carolina affiliate for Safe Kids Worldwide, Children’s Trust is committed to raising awareness about the hazards of a child being left alone in a car, which can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke, particularly as temperatures climb this summer. Nationally, a child dies from heatstroke every 10 days on average, and in more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car.
The inside of a vehicle can heat up 19 degrees in 10 minutes, which means a child’s core body temperature also will rise quickly. Cracking a window does not help. Young children are at a much greater risk because their bodies heat up at a rate three to five times faster than that of an adult.
Since 1998, 757 children have died across the U.S. due to pediatric vehicular heatstroke, according to noheatstroke.org. Of those deaths, 93 percent involved children ages 0 to 4. And 68 percent of the total deaths have taken place in the warmer months of June, July and August.
All of these deaths could have been prevented. Children’s Trust is the prevention organization in our state, and we highly encourage everyone to follow the Safe Kids tips known as ACT.
- Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car. Also make sure to keep parked cars locked so kids don’t get in on their own, and keep keys out of the reach of children. Unattended children playing in vehicles account for 27 percent of the heatstroke deaths. Always check cars and car trunks when looking for a missing child.
- Create a reminder. Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when it’s unoccupied, and move the toy to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is sitting in the car seat. Also place your phone, briefcase or purse in the backseat when traveling with your child so that you remember to check it immediately upon arriving at a destination.
- Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.
Let’s all do our part to ensure there are no more heatstroke deaths. With awareness, education and action, we can find the solutions to ending these tragic losses of life.