The Kid’s Doctor: Simple precautions can help avoid hot car deaths

The Kid’s Doctor

Heat stroke is the second leading cause of non-traffic fatalities among children, with the first being back-over deaths. As summer temperatures soar, these tragic accidents become all too frequent.

The state of Texas leads the country in child vehicular heat stroke deaths, followed by Florida and California. But children who are trapped in vehicles have died in milder climates, as well. The temperatures outside may be as low as 60 degrees, but the inside of a car heats up quickly, with 80 percent of the increase in temperature happening in the first 10 minutes.

The reason for this is due to physics. The sun’s short-wave radiation is absorbed by dark dashboards and seats. The heated objects, including child seats, then emit long wave radiation which heats a vehicle’s interior air. All of this can lead to tragedy.

A child’s thermoregulatory system is not the same as an adult’s, and their body temperatures will warm three to five times faster. When a child’s body temperature rises to about 107 degrees or greater, their internal organs begin to shut down. This scenario can then lead to death. If you see a child who’s been left in a hot car, call 911 immediately. Every minute matters.

The greatest percentage of these tragic deaths are totally unintentional. The parents of children who die in hot cars are not “bad” parents” or “child abusers,” however. On average, there have been about 37 deaths per year in the U.S. due to vehicular heat stroke, and in most cases this is not due to reckless behavior but simply to forgetfulness. Parents and caregivers both admit to “just forgetting” a child was still in the car. It truly can happen to anyone.

So how can you remember that your precious, quiet, sleeping child is in back seat? Make it a routine to always look in the back seat before you lock and leave the car. Put your purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back seat as an extra reminder to look for your child.

Lastly, if your attends a daycare center, have a plan in place that the childcare provider will call you if you haven’t notified them that your child will not be coming to school, and the youngster doesn’t show up. It could save a life!

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.


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