13:55 PM

First Heatstroke Death of 2016 Reported

Never leave a child alone in a car, even in January

It may sound unbelievable this time of the year, but the first heatstroke death of 2016 has been confirmed. It happened on Jan. 12, in Rossville, Georgia. The 13-month-old child died after being left in a car for more than 5 hours with the heater running on low. Deputies say the child's 47-year-old grandmother was visiting a friend's house and left the child in the car.

"This case just goes to show that you should never leave a child alone in a car," said Sharon Evans, Trauma/Injury Prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s. “We’ve seen children die in the winter months before. We hope people will take extra precaution and know that there's never a safe way or time to leave a child in the car.”

An autopsy shows the child's cause of death was hyperthermia, or being exposed to heat for a long period of time. According to deputies, the temperature inside the car swelled past 100 degrees.

Hyperthermia, also known as heatstroke, is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. It occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.

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.

"In 2015, 24 children died in hot cars across the country, which is the lowest number since records started being kept in 1998," said Evans. "It doesn't matter what the temperature is outside, if you see a child alone in a car, call 911 or break a window. Do whatever you can to help that child."