LUBBOCK, Texas — This year 24 children have died from heatstroke due to being left in hot cars, with four of those happening in Texas. Health professionals say it can be an easy mistake to make.
Most of these incidents are happening in employer parking lots said Chad Curry, Training Chief of U.M.C. E.M.S.
Dr. Vanessa Dalton of Covenant Health Pediatrics said it can easily happen if a child falls asleep in the car ride home from running errands.
Everyone is cautioned to never leave a child alone in a running car.
Accidentally or intentionally putting the car in gear, and the possibility of someone stealing the car are just a few of the concerns. In addition, it’s unlawful.
Dalton cautioned, “Texas law states that children under seven should not be left alone in a vehicle for more than five minutes at a time. If you see a young child in a vehicle that is not running it would be reasonable to call for help. Contacting police or even the owner of the store so they can notify the parent that there is a child in a car that is not running.”
Curry emphasized that life comes first.
“We are definitely going to take the window out very quickly,” Curry said. “We’re gonna get safely into the vehicle and get the child out quickly.”
There are simple ways that serve as reminders when traveling with children so they are not left unattended in a vehicle. Leaving a cell phone or a personal belonging in the backseat would be one example.
“When I have a bunch of kids I definitely headcount when I get them all out of the car,” Dalton said. “I’m always looking back to make sure that I didn’t accidentally leave someone in the car.”
If a car is not running and the outside temperature is 80 degrees, it can heat the inside temperature up to 110 degrees in 20 minutes or less. Children are much more susceptible to heatstroke than adults because of their surface area ratio.
“They have less internal protection than an adult body and their temperature is going to rise a whole lot more quickly because of that when they are in a hot environment,” Dalton said.
Early signs of heatstroke in a child are similar to those of an adult, including headache, nausea, becoming lethargic, pale clammy skin and sweating profusely.
Curry added, “Once they stop sweating that’s when the real danger comes into play, they lose consciousness. They don’t have the ability to sweat anymore. That is where it becomes very dangerous.”
If a child is conscience enough to swallow and control their own airway they need to take in fluids like water, drinks with electrolytes and absolutely stay away from soft drinks. If you think your child is having a heatstroke pull them out of that environment immediately and call 911.