#checkforbaby: What You Should Do If You See a Child In a Hot Car
Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy
According to noheatstroke.org, 29 child vehicular heastroke deaths have occurred in the United States. Seven of those deaths occurred in Texas.
A child dies from heatstroke about once every 10 days from being unattended in a hot vehicle. Heastroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatality for kids 14 and younger. In more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car or the child climbed into an unlocked car to play and couldn't get themselves out.
“What’s heartbreaking is that this is a serious public health issue that is 100 percent preventable,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Every mom and dad out there must realize it can happen to you. Texas leads the nation in child heat-related car deaths.”
So if you saw a baby alone in a car, what would you do to help?
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a national online survey found that almost 2 out of every 5 parents said they had seen a young child left alone in a parked car in the last year. Some reported that they took action. Others reported they did nothing.
What should you do if you see a child in a hot car?
First and foremost, call 911.
“Each situation is unique. It’s best to call 911, describe the situation and take direction from them,” said Lonny Haschel, Staff Lieutenant with Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Highway Patrol.
In a situation where someone spots a child in a hot car, every second counts. The inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes and keeps getting hotter with each passing minute. And cracking the window doesn’t help.
Heatstroke occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself quickly enough. Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up to 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Children can’t cool their bodies fast enough to handle the heat and once the child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, he or she is at risk of death.
Over the weekend, two children died in Phoenix, Ariz. A 7 month old died when the temperature was 101 degrees. The following day a 1 year old died when it was 103 outside.
But it doesn't need to be over 100 degrees for the car to heat up quickly enough for deadly consequences. On July 27, 2017, a 4-month-old baby died in a hot car in Laramie, Wyo. and it was 84 degrees outside.
“It truly doesn’t have to be a ‘hot’ day in Texas for a death to occur,” Walraven said. “The temperature inside a vehicle can quickly climb over 20 degrees hotter than outdoor temperature. So even a cool day in Texas can become dangerous very quickly. Since children’s body heat rises three to five times faster than adults, it’s important to know that temperatures can become deadly any time of year.
Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think. Symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death.
Leaving a child alone in a hot car is not only extremely dangerous, but against the law. A person commits a criminal offense in Texas if he or she knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than 5 minutes knowing that the child is :
- Younger than 7 years of age and;
- Not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.
Safe Kids recommend the “ACT” method to prevent tragedy to your child or to a child you see left in a car:
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
- C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. Another idea is to take off one of your shoes and place it in the backseat. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.