Heatstroke in Kids: #1 Killer of Children Outside of Car Accidents

Heatstroke is the number one killer of children, outside of car crashes. That’s why ACOG’s two largest divisions, Transportation Planning and Services and 9-1-1 and Public Safety have joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to attempt to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heatstroke and leaving children in hot cars. In 2015, there were 24 heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.

“As outside temperatures rise, the risks of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also rises,” said John G. Johnson, Executive Director, ACOG. “One child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle, but what is most tragic is that these deaths could have been prevented.“

ACOG urges all parents and caregivers to do these three things:

  1. NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended;
  2. Make it a habit to look in the back seat EVERY time you exit the car;
  3. ALWAYS lock the car and put the keys out of reach. And, if you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 9-1-1 right away.

If you are a bystander and see a child unattended:

  1. Always make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  2. If the child appears ok, attempt to locate the parents; or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
  3. If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.
  4. If the child is not responsive and appears in great distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child, even if that means breaking a window.

Look Before You Lock

Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, quickly spray the child with cool water or with a garden hose, never an ice bath. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

Children’s body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

“Nearly 60 percent of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 29 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own,” said Johnson. “We want to get the word out to parents and caregivers, please look before you lock.”

More Heat Stroke Prevention Resources

National Traffic Safety Administration

Infographic: #CheckForBaby

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