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Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children.
It occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.
Young children are particularly at risk as their body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s.
When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think.
Symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death.
Since 1998, more than 550 children across the United States have died from heatstroke when unattended in a vehicle.
52% - child “forgotten" by caregiver
29% - child playing in unattended vehicle
18% - child intentionally left in vehicle by adult
In 2010, 49 children died from heatstroke. In 2011, one of the hottest years on record, 33 children died. In 2012, 32 children died.
Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states.
There are a staggering number of near misses – children who were rescued before a fatality. Palm Beach County reported more than 500 near misses in one year alone. And if that many are happening in one county, can you imagine the number happening across the country?
Top Safety Tips
Heatstroke can happen anytime. Anywhere.
We don’t want to see this happen to any family. Safe Kids is asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy.
Safe Kids wants everyone to ACT.
Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
Safe Kids supports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) heatstroke education campaign and the increased national coordination on the issue.
With the support of the GM Foundation, Safe Kids and its network of 600 coalitions and chapters across the nation, including police and fire departments, hospitals and doctors, government agencies, childcare centers and businesses, are helping to educate parents and caregivers about the grave dangers of leaving children alone in a car.
Who Is Affected?
These types of tragedies can happen to anyone, and most of the cases are to loving, caring parents.
It’s easy to become distracted when you are a new parent and are sleep-deprived or when your routine is disrupted.
Data has shown that heatstroke tragedies happen more often when the daily routine is changed.
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