Watch Out for Deadly Heat Stroke in Children
June 29, 2018
Heat stroke, also known as heat illness, can be especially dangerous – even fatal – for children in particular. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heat stroke is one of the leading causes of death in children. The number one way heatstroke occurs in children is when forgetful parents or caregivers leave them in a car. Although this is usually accidental, the results can be fatal.
Even on a 60-degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach as high as 110 degrees. Once a child’s temperature hits 107 degrees, he or she can die from brain damage. The chance of a child being left in a vehicle increases when a parent or caregiver’s daily routine is undergoing scheduling changes, or when someone else is transporting the child. Kids can overheat up to five times as quickly as adults do. In order to prevent heatstroke it is crucial to watch out for the warning signs and ensure access to timely medical care.
Heatstroke is caused by an elevation in body temperature and is often accompanied by dehydration. In extreme cases, heatstroke can cause brain damage, shock and organ failure. Although heatstroke is treatable, if it is not caught quickly enough it can be fatal. The more common signs and symptoms of heatstroke include nausea, seizures, severe headaches, confusion or strange behavior, strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse, red, hot and moist or dry skin and an absence of sweating.
No Heatstroke is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting preventable child heatstroke deaths. The organization found that in more than half of the 733 fatalities that have occurred since 1998, children were mistakenly left in vehicles. In 28% of the cases, children were playing inside a vehicle when they overheated and in 17%, parents or caregivers had left their child or children in the vehicle on purpose or knowingly. The majority of child fatalities were in children age 1 or younger.
The NHTSA has found the following tips to be particularly helpful in decreasing the chance of parents and caregivers accidentally leaving their children in cars:
- Leave a stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it is empty and when your child is in the seat, put the stuffed animal – or other visual reminder – in the front to remind you that he or she is in the back;
- Keep keys out of the reach of all children – 3 out of 10 heatstroke deaths happen when kids gain access to vehicles;
- Be in the routine of checking the backseat before leaving the vehicle or making sure your child has been dropped off safely by someone else, and:
- Be especially cautious of checking your vehicle when your routine has changed or someone else is watching your child
It is also important that parents and caregivers know:
- Leaving windows open does not stop heatstroke from happening;
- Leaving a child in a car for even a few minutes can be fatal – even if the car is running;
- Even on overcast days, heatstroke can still occur, and:
- Heatstroke is possible even when the weather is under 70 degrees
As a bystander, you can help save someone’s life. If you notice a child inside a car, there are things you can do to help. If the child is responsive, stay with them until help has arrived. You can also have a person go and search for the parent/caregiver/driver, or have the facility page the owner of the vehicle. However, if you see that a child is in distress or he/she is unresponsive, call 9-1-1 right away. The NHTSA urges observers to do what they can to get a child out of a vehicle, as well as to spray them with cool water (not a cold bath) once they are outside.
Parents and caregivers can also talk to children about the risks of overheating. KidsHealth recommends discussing the importance of:
- Drinking fluids before being active – especially in the heat;
- Avoiding particularly heavy physical activities between 12 and 6PM;
- Taking breaks when feeling tired, dehydrated or “winded”, and:
- Wearing weather-appropriate clothing to help prevent overheating
To read the rest of KidsHealth’s tips, please click here: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/heat.html#.
Although many children may be left in vehicles due to forgetful mistakes, parents and caregivers can take precautions that will help keep children safe. So far this year, 33 children have died from heatstroke – but we can all do our part to make sure this number doesn’t grow. Always check the backseat of your vehicle before locking it and remember that heatstroke can happen quickly, especially in children.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you or a loved one has experienced heatstroke and you have questions, please contact our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.