Heat Stroke in the Car is Preventable – What Every Family Should Know

CHOC would like to remind everyone never to leave a child alone in a vehicle. Despite public education, every year, children die from heat stroke or experience varying degrees of heat illness after being left unattended in a vehicle.  Amy Frias, BS, CLEC, CPSTI, OC Safe Kids coordinator and community educator at CHOC, says that this summer alone 19 children died nationally – three of them from California. Moreover, she explains that these tragic incidents are 100 percent preventable!

According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, even at relatively cool ambient temperatures, the temperature rise in vehicles is significant on clear, sunny days and puts infants at risk for hyperthermia. The majority of the temperature rise occurs within the first 15 to 30 minutes. And, leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process.

To ensure your kids are safe, check out the following Q&A with Amy Frias:

Q: What are the symptoms of heat stroke?
A: Heat stroke or hyperthermia, is a life threatening condition where a child’s temperature rises to 104 degrees or more, causing delirium, rapid heartbeat, convulsions or coma. Symptoms can quickly progress to seizures, organ failure and even death.

Q:  What key messages do you have for parents regarding heat stroke?
A: Keep in mind the Safe Kids World Wide Prevention Tips – ACT.

Avoid Never leave your child alone in the car, even for a minute. Consistently lock unattended vehicle, doors and trunks. Keep car keys/remotes out of children’s sight and reach.

Create reminders – Create reminders by putting something in the back seat of your car next to your child that is needed at your final destination, such as, a briefcase or purse. This is especially important if you are not following your normal routine.

Take action – If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. One call could save a life.

Q: Is there an age group more at risk?
A: Children, in general, overheat up to five times faster than adults. Children are more at risk because their bodies absorb heat more quickly. Their perspiration doesn’t cool them as well as it does adults. They can’t change their environment by removing clothing or getting out of the vehicle.

Q: If your or someone else’s child is suffering from heat stroke, what can you do while medical assistance arrives?
• Take the child to a cool place.

• Remove as much of their clothing as possible.

• If available, apply cold packs or ice to areas of large blood vessels (neck, groin, armpits) to accelerate cooling. If possible cover with a wet sheet and fan the child to increase air circulation.

• Take her body temperature every five minutes and continue your cooling efforts until the thermometer reads 102 degrees F or less.

• Heat stroke victims sometimes begin to twitch uncontrollably. In the event of a seizure, make sure the child doesn’t injure herself. Never try to insert a spoon or other hard object in the child’s mouth; simply turning the child’s head to the side will suffice.

For more information, please visit these helpful sites:

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