Heatstroke is a process than starts up when the body’s temperature goes to or above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature overwhelms the body's thermoregulatory functions and death can result. Across the U.S., such heatstroke deaths occur usually from children either getting themselves stuck or being left in a car by the caretaker, whether on purpose or accidentally.
While the news often latches onto intentional vehicular heatstroke deaths, an estimated 8 of 10 heat-related auto deaths are deemed accidental, according to statistics from San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences. Most often, these accidents happen when the child is left in the car by the parent or other caregiver, with about 30% occurring when the child was playing unattended and got trapped inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment or trunk.
Why does this happen so frequently? The fact is that caregivers are often distracted by responsibilities. Though there is nothing more important to a parent than their own child, the high-stress lives we lead, or a momentary high-stress event, can result in what ultimately proves to be a deadly distraction.
Our youngest children are the most common victims of heat stroke deaths in cars, because they are less able to get themselves out of danger. The interior of a closed car can skyrocket in temperature incredibly quickly. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, a car's internal temperature can rise on a 80 degree day to more than 125 degrees in just 30 minutes.
Add to this the fact that a younger child's body has not yet developed the ability to process heat as efficiently as older children and adults, and the risk of heat stroke is imminent. A child's body temperatures rises as much as five times faster than an adult's.
However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of heatstroke. By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can help ensure your child is safe.
Important tips for keeping your children safe this summer from a vehicular heatstroke death
- Keep your car doors locked when you're home.
- If your child is missing, make a beeline to your car – check the trunk too.
- Always check the backseat before you lock your car.
- When driving with your child in the back seat, put something you know you'll need when you get back out near your child, such as your purse, wallet, or cell phone.
- Easy memory trick: Keep a large stuffed animal in your baby’s car seat when not being used. And then put that stuffed animal in the front seat beside you when your child is in the car seat – a visual reminder to look back when you get out.
When heatstroke happens, it's a tragedy - but it's almost always avoidable. By staying mindful and alert, you can make sure your children are well-protected.