Cars, Children and Summer Heat Can Be Deadly
04/12/2012

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — As outside temperatures rise, the dangers for children being seriously injured inside a hot car also increase. That’s why Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in an effort to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heatstroke in young children.

Cars, Children and Summer Heat Can Be Deadly

“More than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in a car, and more than 30 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own,” said Jennifer McMeens, R.N., B.S.N., child passenger safety coordinator at Texas Health Stephenville.

To help prevent these needless tragedies, we urge parents and caregivers to do several things:

  • NEVER leave a child in a vehicle unattended.
  • Make it a habit to look in the back seat EVERY time you exit the car.
  • 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 911 right away,” said McMeens.

According to NHTSA, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children 14 and under. In fact, one child dies from heatstroke from being left in a hot vehicle nearly every 10 days.

Warning signs of heatstroke include red, hot and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse; and nausea, confusion or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child rapidly (not an ice bath but by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose). Call 911 immediately.

“Childrens' 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,” said McMeens. “On an 80 degree spring day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes. When it’s 101 degrees outside, it’s 140 degrees in a closed car.”

Here are a few key safety tips to prevent vehicular heatstroke:

  • Never leave an infant or child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partly open, or if the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
  • Don’t let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
  • Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle:
    • Write yourself a note and place it where you’ll see it when you leave the vehicle.
    • Place your purse, briefcase or something else you will need in the back seat to help ensure you will see a child left in the vehicle.
    • Keep an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. Once the child is buckled in, drivers should place the object where they will notice it when they leave the vehicle.
  • Always lock vehicle doors and trunks, and keep keys out of children’s reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • Ask your child care center to call you if your child does not arrive on time.

Properly fitted car seats are also vital to keeping children safe. Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct car seat inspections at Texas Health Stephenville on the first Thursday and third Sunday of the month. Call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355) to schedule an appointment.

About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville is a 98-bed acute care, full-service facility serving Erath and surrounding counties since 1926. The hospital's services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, women’s services, advanced diagnostic imaging, and wound care. Texas Health Stephenville, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, has been recognized as a Nurse-Friendly Hospital and a Level IV Trauma Center. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Stephenville.

For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.

Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.