Dangers of Leaving Kids in Hot Cars and How to Prevent It August 9, 2012

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While summertime often is a time of fun and relaxation, without proper precaution in the hot weather, it can lead to tragedy.

In anticipation of prolonged, triple-digit temperatures, Dell Children's Medical Center and Safe Kids Austin are urging media to remind the community of the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a hot car. Let's prevent a tragedy from happening in our community.

In 2011, 33 children died from heat stroke while unattended in cars. The Central Texas community was affected by two of those deaths last year. August is the deadliest month. This week has demonstrated the trend. The recent death of child in Nashville, TN was the eighth in a one-week period (August 1 - 7, 2012). (Click here for a locations child vehicular death in the United States in 2012.)

Although most assume this would never happen to them, there is no common description of the caregiver who has experienced this tragedy. It has happened to the rich and poor, well-educated and less educated, women and men, and city-dwellers and suburbanites. Historically, 51-percent of these accidents occur because of parents unintentionally "forgetting" their child, likely from a distraction or change in routine.

All of the deaths and injuries are preventable.

Here's what parents and caregivers need to know and why.

  • Take Immediate Action. The body temperature of children rises 3 to 5 times faster than adults, and as a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke.
  • Dial 911 Immediately if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. Check vehicles and trunks FIRST if a child is missing.
  • Lock Cars and Trucks. Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicles to assure that kids don't enter and become trapped.
  • Create Reminders. Many child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
  • Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.
  • Set the alarm on your cell phone/smartphone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care.
  • Set your computer calendar program to ask, "Did you drop off at daycare today?" Establish a plan with your daycare that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time that you will be called within a few minutes.
  • Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for daycare.
  • Get Involved. Free educational materials are available at www.Safekids.org. Post them at your child care center, place of business, church- let's help each other prevent further tragedies!

For more information, please call Tareka Wheeler, Safe Kids Austin program coordinator, at 512-825-6915

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