Safety Alert: Kids and Hot Cars
June 26, 2020
As the days keep getting hotter and hotter, it is official: summer is in full swing. Temperatures climb rapidly in vehicles, and a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body does. In the last two decades, nearly 1,000 children have died from medical complications after they were left unattended in hot vehicles. Although these tragic deaths are preventable, heat stroke is still one of the top causes of non-crash, vehicle-associated deaths in children and teens under 15-years-old.
Hot Cars Hazards
There are currently no federal laws that govern whether parents and caretakers can leave children and teens unattended in vehicles, but many states do have laws in place. For example, in Pennsylvania the person who is in charge of a motor vehicle is not allowed to leave a child under 6-years-old unattended (e.g. out of eyesight) in a motor vehicle in any situation that may endanger that child’s health, safety, or welfare. Laws like these are important and lifesaving, because cars can heat up to 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. When a child’s body temperature climbs to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, their organs begin to shut down. At 107 degrees, the effects can be fatal.
Children and teens can experience heat stroke in temperatures as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature goes up from there, the hazards associated with hot vehicles increase as well. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s body is unable to regulate its temperature and properly cool down. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), some of the most common symptoms of heat stroke in kids and teens are:
- Inability to sweat
- Rapid breathing and/or a rapid heart rate
- Severe headache
- Weakness or dizziness
- General confusion
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
If your child has been inside or outside in hot temperatures and is experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, call for emergency medical assistance immediately. If a child is unresponsive, get them out of the car and spray them with cool – not ice – water while help is on the way.
Ways to Avoid Heat Stroke in Kids
Parents and caregivers can grow so accustomed to their daily routines, like putting their child in the car to take them to the grocery store, pharmacy, or gas station that they sometimes become forgetful and a deadly mistake ends up happening. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the risks of heat stroke in kids and teens. The AAP recommends that parents and caregivers observe the following safety tips:
- Avoid all distractions when you are driving, such as using a cell phone, eating, setting your GPS, etc.
- When there is a change in routine, like if someone else is giving your child a ride, be extra cautious and alert. This includes making sure that whoever is providing childcare calls any time your child is more than 10 minutes late to arrive at his or her destination
- Teach kids that cars are not safe places to play in, and be sure to remind them that car trunks can be particularly dangerous
- Always keep vehicles locked when they are in park. Several hot car-related deaths involve children who enter vehicles when a parent or caretaker is not around
- Store car keys out of reach of children
- Always store your cell phone or bag in the back seat to increase your chances of checking the back seat every time you are exiting the vehicle
No matter what state you live in and what the laws may or may not be, please remember that it is never safe to leave a young child alone in a vehicle for any period of time.
There are also a variety of car seat safety products on the market that alert a person if their child has been left in their car seat and in some cases, if their temperature is dropping dangerously high or dangerously low. Car seats with safety features like these often have built-in sensors that attach to safety belts or other parts of the car seat. Some alarm systems can even detect movement inside the vehicle. In many cases, users can sync these products directly to their cell phones. If you would like to learn more about car seat safety products that can help limit the hazards associated with hot cars, you can visit https://www.fatherly.com/gear/best-car-seat-alarms/. If you have a legal question about heat stroke-related injuries your child sustained, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
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