Summer Heat, Cars and Kids Don’t Mix

July 31, 2015

Never leave your kids in the car, even for a minute.

By Mercy's Angie Sapporito

As the summer heats up, it's important to remember that heat, cars and kids don’t mix. Inevitably we read and hear local stories concerning serious medical injuries that are the result of a child being left in the car unattended.

The National Traffic Safety Administration says heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under age 14. On average, every 8 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.

"Children are at risk for vehicular heatstroke, a form of hyperthermia because their bodies can’t regulate temperature as well as adults," said Chuck Featherly, MD, Mercy emergency physician. "An infant can suffer heatstroke when it is relatively cool outside."

According to KidsandCars.org, beyond the intentional reasons a child is left unattended in a car, a change in routine is the predominate thread in many of the deaths and injuries. For instance you might not be the usual parent to drop off the kids at the sitters or you divert from your routine of picking them up and dropping them off. In some circumstances, it may be a tag team and the assumption is that the other parent is involved.

KidsandCars.org offers many important safety tips, such as:

  • Never ever leaving your kids in the car, even for a minute.
  • Consider putting your purse or briefcase in the back seat next to the car seat so you have to open the back door.
  • Instruct the child care provider to call you whenever your child doesn't arrive.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle, front and back, before locking the door and walking away.
  • Keep your car doors locked and teach your kids that the car is not a play area. Some children who die in hot cars get there on their own.
  • If you see a child alone in a vehicle, get involved. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. 

To reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke, remember to ACT:

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, even for a minute. Also, 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 that you’ll need at your final destination, like your cell phone, purse or briefcase. 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.

Click here to download additional safety tips, from SafeKids USA.

Mercy is the seventh largest Catholic health care system in the U.S., which serves millions annually. Mercy includes 46 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

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