If you follow the national news, you may have heard that there have already been 19 heatstroke-related deaths in 2016. We don’t think about this a lot in Vermont, but along with warmer temperatures and sunnier days, we are entering the time of year when heatstroke is most prevalent.
Sadly, we hear about children’s deaths in hot cars every summer. When the outside temperature is 70°F, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly rise to 120°F in a matter of minutes. Leaving the windows cracked for ventilation or leaving the car in the shade only makes about a two- to three-degree temperature difference. The graphic below illustrates how dramatically temperatures can rise in an enclosed vehicle.
A child’s internal body temperature heats up three to five times more quickly than adults, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. The clinical definition of overheating is when your internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees. Body systems start to shut down at that point and when internal temperatures reach 107 degrees, cells start to die and fatalities occur.
Some parents may choose to leave their children in their vehicles while they quickly run into a store. Others may have forgotten their children in the car accidentally. Whether intentional or not, the danger of heatstroke is real and we can prevent these types of injuries and deaths.
Safe Kids Worldwide recommends the following tip: Reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT.
- 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. 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.
For more statistics on heatstroke, go to http://noheatstroke.org/
Find more safety information at http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke
Amanda Biggs and Maureen Johnson are the Child Passenger Safety Specialists for Trauma Services at The University of Vermont Medical Center and The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital. To schedule a free car seat inspection, call (802) 847-1215.