As temperatures continue to climb in Houston, we all need to prepare ourselves and our loved ones for what some experts say will be an even longer, hotter summer than usual. When heat levels rise, so does the risk of heatstroke, a fatal form of hyperthermia, in adults and children alike.
In fact, heatstroke is the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths in children behind car crashes. These statistics are frightening; especially considering these heat-related tragedies are completely preventable. On average, a child dies every 10 days from a heatstroke in a vehicle. In 2018, 29 children have died from heatstroke in vehicles so far – two of these incidents occurred in our Greater Houston area.
It could be easy for any of us to forget a quiet infant or child in car when they’re often sleeping so peacefully or occupied by a device. It might also be tempting to grab your keys and leave them alone in the car while you run into the store quickly. In all cases, leaving a child alone in a hot car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke. Young children are particularly vulnerable in these situations, as their bodies heat up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s.
When you stop the car’s air conditioning before hopping out, the internal temperature of the car will quickly become hotter than outside of it. If the temperature outside is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of a closed car could reach 109 degrees Fahrenheit within just 20 minutes. Cracking a window does very little to keep the inside of a car cool.
In observance of National Heatstroke Prevention Day, it’s critical to remember that we can all ACT together in preventing heat-related injuries and fatalities from hot vehicles.
A: AVOID heatstroke and other heat-related injuries by never leaving your child alone in a car … not even for a minute. In Texas, this is a crime and can result in a class C misdemeanor in the most harmless of situations. When the vehicle is at home, keep the doors locked and keys out of a child’s reach.
C: CREATE reminders! Place an item you need in the back of your car or next to your child, such as a briefcase, wallet or cell phone. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine. If your child is with a care provider, ensure vehicle-related procedures are in place, such as vehicle searches or locking vehicles when not in use. Use technology to your advantage and use apps or other communication methods with your childcare provider.
T: TAKE action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1. Emergency personnel want you to call, and they’re trained to respond swiftly to these situations. One call could save a life.