Kids are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s
Camp Hill, Pa. – As summer approaches and temperatures soar, Safe Kids Pennsylvania is reminding the public about the dangers of heatstroke to children. Kids are especially vulnerable if left unattended in vehicles and during outdoor play. Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down; and when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
“Young children are particularly at risk as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s,” said Michelle Nutter, Safe Kids Pennsylvania manager.
Leaving children unattended in cars is especially dangerous; and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think. An average of 38 children die every year, and for every child who dies, hundreds more are rescued. It does not have to be hot outside for the car to heat up to a dangerous level. On an 80-degree day, the inside of a closed car can quickly exceed 100 degrees. Cracking a window does not help keep the inside of a car cool.
More than 50 percent of the children who died from heat stroke were forgotten by a caring adult who became distracted when they left the vehicle. When left unattended by an adult, thirty percent of affected kids gained entry into an unlocked vehicle, became trapped and were overcome by heat. It takes only minutes for a child to be at risk of death and serious, permanent injury in a hot car. Drivers must keep car doors locked and keys out of reach from young children.
“We want to raise awareness of just how dangerous it is to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, as well as to remind parents and caregivers of important safety precautions they can take to avoid this preventable tragedy,” Nutter added. Safe Kids Pennsylvania urges all adults who transport children to take the following steps:
- Call 911 if they see a child unattended in a vehicle.
- Never leave children alone in a car – even for 1 minute.
- Set your cell phone or Blackberry reminder to be sure you drop your child off at daycare.
- Set your computer “Outlook” program to ask you, “Did you drop off at daycare today?”
- Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or whatever is to be carried from the car on the floor in front of the child in a back seat. This forces the adult to open the back door and observe the child.
- Have a plan with your childcare provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected.
- Keep keys and remote entry key fobs out of children’s reach.
- Lock all vehicles at all times.
- Check cars and trunks first if a child goes missing.
Kids are also at a higher risk for dehydration. Children have a lower sweating capacity and produce more heat during play and physical activity than adults, which makes them more prone to dehydration illness and heatstroke. Symptoms may include dizziness; disorientation; agitation; confusion; sluggishness; seizure; hot, dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty; loss of consciousness; rapid heartbeat or hallucinations. For every 20 minutes of play, a child should drink about ten gulps of water and take cooling breaks.
Parents and caregivers should also remember to check the playground equipment and surfaces in the summertime. Playground equipment can become dangerously hot, especially metal slides, handrails and steps. If the equipment is hot to the touch, then it is probably not safe to play on.
For more information on preventing hyperthermia deaths, contact Safe Kids Pennsylvania at 1-800-683-5100 or PASafeKids.org.
About Safe Kids Pennsylvania at Center for Schools and Communities
Safe Kids Pennsylvania works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids Pennsylvania is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Pennsylvania was founded in 1991 and is led by the Center for Schools and Communities.