Between 1998 and 2009, 445 children died from heat stroke because they were left unattended in vehicles that became too hot for them to survive. Through the NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE campaign (sponsored by the General Motors Foundation), Safe Kids Fargo/Moorhead has collaborated with other North Dakota Safe Kids coalitions in an effort to reduce heat stroke deaths to children left unattended in vehicles.
As summer approaches and temperatures soar, Safe Kids Fargo/Moorhead reminds parents and caregivers to always check for sleeping children before leaving a vehicle. Unfortunately, there have already been three confirmed heat stroke fatalities in the United States this year. The first occurred in early March on a day that reached only 73 degrees, the second occurred in late April on a day that reached 86 degrees and the third occurred just six days later on a day that reached 80 degrees.
"A child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's, making them more susceptible to heat stroke – even on a day with mild temperatures" said Bobbi Paper, MeritCare Injury Prevention Coordinator. "Heat stroke can occur within a matter of minutes and the results can be deadly," Paper says.
Safe Kids Fargo/Moorhead urges all adults to take the following steps:
- Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open for any length of time.
- Call 911 if a child is seen unattended in a vehicle.
- Place a cell phone, diaper bag, or gym bag in the back seat on the floor. This will force you to open the back door, which will eliminate accidentally leaving a child in a car.
- Set a cell phone reminder to drop off your child at daycare.
- Set your computer "Outlook" program to ask, "Did you drop off
at daycare today?"
- Have a plan with your child care provider to call if your child does not arrive when expected.
- Check cars and trunks first if a child goes missing. Keep vehicle doors and trunks locked. Keep keys out of child's reach.
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," added Paper. "Drivers must keep car doors locked and keys out of reach from young children at all times."
For more information on preventing hyperthermia deaths, please visit www.safekids.org/nlyca and www.ggweather.com/heat. Be sure to NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE in a vehicle.