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Heatstroke Kills

A four-month-old baby in central New York died of heatstroke after being left in his father’s car for an ‘extended period of time’ back in the summer of 2016. The baby was found unconscious and was pronounced dead despite emergency medical procedures to save him- the temperature outside the car was over 80 degrees.

 

Heatstroke Kills Children

Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that has killed 764 children in the United States since 1998, and July is typically the deadliest month. This year alone 22 children have died of heatstroke due to deadly temperatures inside of a vehicle. According to an article by Safe Kids Worldwide, a car can heat up 19 degrees in just 10 minutes, despite cracking a window for air circulation. These horrible deaths are completely preventable, yet continue to occur across the country every summer.  

National Heat Stroke Awareness Day is July 31st. To help spread awareness of this dangerous trend, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Child Passenger Safety Board and the National Safety Council have all come together to support this worthy campaign. By encouraging parents to make safer choices regarding the heat and car safety, as well as spreading awareness of how to prevent the onset of heatstroke, we can all help protect our country’s children from suffering any more of these horrifying and unnecessary fatalities.

 

Leaving Kids in Cars…It Could Happen To Anyone

Some parents are convinced they would never be so reckless as to leave their children in the car on a hot day. However, NHTSA wants to remind the public that heatstroke fatalities are not caused by negligent or cruel parents. The onset of heatstroke can happen quickly, in as little as 15 minutes according to an article by CafeMom. Most fatal cases of car-related heatstroke occur when:

  • a child is mistakenly left in a vehicle
  • a child enters a vehicle on their own and becomes trapped

In an article released by Parents, a neuroscientist explains why forgetting your kid in a car is not as far-fetched as some parents may believe. When looking at how the brain works, the part of the brain that controls new information (prefrontal cortex and hippocampus) and the part that controls our habits (basal ganglia) can often compete, especially if a routine is disrupted or if stress is present. Those of us who have experienced ‘autopilot’ on the road may remember arriving at our location safely, but forget how exactly we got there- that is what is happening to some of these parents.

In other instances, where parents intentionally leave children in the car, their judgment or lack of knowledge regarding rising temperatures in cars can quickly put their child in unintended danger. A quick run into the store, someone’s house, or even into the office while a child is sleeping might take longer than expected, leaving children in imminent danger even if the temperatures outside is only around 60 degrees.

 

What is Heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a heat-related illness caused by the body severely overheating, typically from prolonged exposure to extreme heat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Heatstroke is the most serious of heat-related illnesses, requiring immediate medical attention in order to avoid serious damage to major organs such as the heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys. The longer heatstroke affects the body, the higher the risk of severe illness and death.

Mayo Clinic identifies the most common signs of heatstroke as:

  • Body temperature over 104 F or higher
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Lack of sweating, dry to the touch
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache

Babies and young children are at a higher risk of heatstroke when left in the car because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult. They are also less likely to be able communicate signs of heatstroke, particularly if they are left sleeping or at an age where they are unable to speak.

 

Preventing Child Heatstroke in Cars

Accidents happen, especially when we aren’t expecting them. Every parent, regardless of their beliefs on the issue, should practice these NHTSA safety tips to ensure they are protecting their child from the dangers of heatstroke:

  • Always look in your backseat before you lock the car.
  • Place reminders around the car, or your bag in the backseat, to force you to acknowledge who is and is not in the car.
  • Check in to make your child has arrived safely if someone else is transporting them.
  • Don’t allow your children access to car keys and keep it locked at all times.
  • Call 911 if you see a child alone in a vehicle and act fast if you see the child is not-responsive.

For parents who like acronyms, Safe Kids suggests remembering ACT:

 

  • Avoid heatstroke by never leaving kids in the car along for even a minute and restricting access to your vehicle and keys.
  • Create reminders around the car.
  • Take Action if you see a child alone in a car by helping them and calling first responders immediately.

 

If you suspect a child is suffering from heat stroke, you should always call 911 right away. Mayo Clinic recommends moving the child into the shade or indoors if possible, removing excess clothing, and trying to cool the child by using a cool tub, shower, hose, sponge, or other methods available at the time.

 

Help Prevent Heatstroke on July 31st!

NHTSA and all participating agencies are urging the public to spread awareness this July 31st to help prevent any further car-related heatstroke deaths this year and in the future. To help engage businesses, groups, and communities, NHTSA has created the Heatstroke Awareness Challenge. Anyone can participate in this vital safety campaign by…

  • Creating a 15-30 second video about the danger of heatstroke.
  • Sharing your video on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Using the hashtag #heatstrokekills and tag @NHTSAgov to amplify the message.

NHTSA will dedicate all of their social media channels on the July 31st to Heatstroke Awareness Day to spread a clear, concise message about the facts, the dangers, and prevention techniques needed to help save the lives of innocent children.

For more information on how you can spread awareness this summer, NHTSA offers several fact sheets, videos, and other valuable resources you can download and share on your own social media outlets and within your community.

 

We Fight For NYC Children

Heatstroke is 100% preventable when it comes to car-related incidents. If your child has sustained a serious heat-related injury or illness due to the negligence of another, our dedicated team is here to help. Attorneys at Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe & Fein will aggressively fight for you and your child, seeking justice for the reckless behaviors that put them in harm’s way. Schedule a free consultation today to see what compensation you may be eligible for to cover any damages suffered.