The hot summer months bring heat-related dangers that too often result in preventable tragedy. Celebree Learning Centers suggests ways that parents can recognize the causes, signs and symptoms of heat stroke among children and infants, and avoid the possibility of unattended children in their vehicles.
Since 1990, more than 600 children in the United States have died from complications that develop from being left in hot vehicles, according to the nonprofit safety group Kids and Cars. Regardless of the internal temperature of the vehicle or if the air conditioning is being used, parents should use extreme caution when driving with their children in the summer heat.
The temperature inside a car, parked directly in the sun, can climb drastically in a short period of time. This is due to the “Greenhouse Effect”, in which the heat from the sun is absorbed by the materials on the inside of the car. The heat then becomes trapped inside the car, causing the internal temperature to increase. The air outside of the car does not need to be exceedingly hot for this rapid temperature increase to occur.
Being left, for even a short period of time, inside of a hot car can cause a young child or baby to succumb to heat stroke—a potentially lethal condition caused by extreme overheating that shuts down the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Signs of serious heat stroke may include dizziness, confusion, a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, hot or red skin, headache, vomiting, shallow breathing and loss of consciousness. Infants can develop heat stroke if they are outside or in the sun for prolonged periods of time, if they are not hydrated properly or if they are overdressed. When left untreated, symptoms of heat exhaustion can also lead to heat stroke. Key indicators for heat exhaustion include: unusual drowsiness, thirst and moist skin. Older children may experience cramping in the legs or stomach.
Quick action is essential to your child’s survival in cases of heat stroke. If you believe your child may have had a heat stroke, it is important that you call 911 and immediately try to bring the child’s temperature down. You can do so by undressing your child and placing them in a cool area shaded from the sun. Additional methods for quickly lowering body temperature include sponging your child with a cool piece of cloth or towel, and fanning them consistently.
The easiest way to prevent heat stroke caused by overheated vehicles is a zero tolerance policy: never leave a child in the car alone. Additionally, on warm summer days dress your child in light colored and loose clothing, and make sure to give them extra fluids. If it is too hot to be outside, move your plans or activities indoors.
Here are several other reminders for parents to consider during the hot summer months:
- If you see a child in a hot car alone, contact 911 immediately and wait for help.
- Ensure that even if your vehicle is in your household garage, the doors are locked. This will prevent your child from climbing inside unnoticed.
- If you are stopping somewhere, see to it that everyone is out of the car before you lock it, and keep the keys out of your child’s reach.
When traveling with a little one, it’s easy at times to be on auto-pilot once leaving the vehicle. Here are a few ways to remind yourself that you have an infant in the backseat:
- Set an alarm. Schedule a reoccurring alarm to go off each time you either arrive to work, drop off at school, etc. Any time you need to exit the car, set alarm.
- Put something you need in the backseat. Whether it’s a shoe, purse, wallet, phone, etc., leave it in the backseat for a memory cue. Doing so requires you to check the back.
- Put the diaper bag in the front seat. Swap your purse for the diaper bag, one in the front and the other in the back. For the same reasons mentioned above, it gives you further incentive to double-check the backseat.
There are many creative ways to ensure you are aware and alert whilst traveling with children – even with the hectic and busy schedules that often cause distraction. The best strategy for parents and caretakers to adopt is a strict rule to keep the child with you all the time, no matter what. Avoid leaving infants or children by themselves anywhere where there is even the slightest chance that they might run the risk of becoming overheated. For more information on keeping your child healthy and happy throughout the summer, contact Celebree Learning Centers today.