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Heat Can Kill

by Lori Sciame | May 3rd, 2012 | Infants/Toddlers, Preschool

Heat. It can kill. Am I being over dramatic? I don’t think so, not when it comes to children. When temperatures rise, parents need to remember, even a few minutes in a car is like being locked in an oven to a small child. That’s why I want to write this post as a warning — never leave a child unattended in a vehicle even for five minutes, especially during the warm months of the year.

As outlined by the National Weather Service, heat negatively affects young children. They explain on their website that “each year, dozens of children left in parked vehicles die from hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.”

Also, you need to remember that many preschoolers still sit in car seats and booster seats. Being snuggled into these safety devices does keep them safe while you are driving, but they can also help to heat a child up more quickly. It makes sense, right? When you rest comfortably in your easy chair, surrounded by plush fabric, you naturally feel warmer. On hot days, car seats will cause your child to sweat … and if the air temperature becomes too warm, it makes the situation dangerous.

Add the fact that during this time of the year, the sun’s rays beat down more strongly. As they stream through the windows into a vehicle, it follows that the air temperature will rise. I am sure you can remember how hot those rays felt on your own skin as you sat in a car during the summer? Imagine being a young child, trapped in a car seat, the sun hurting your tender skin while the temperature in the car makes it hard to breathe.

Sadly, this scenario happens too often in the United States. We’ve all heard tragic stories in the news about children who have died in cars due to heat. Here are a few startling statistics:

“There were at least 33 deaths of children in hot vehicles in 2011. In 2010 there were at least 49 deaths of children due to hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being in hot vehicles. In the previous year (2009) there were a total of at least 33 such fatalities in the United States due to hyperthermia after they were left in hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s. Since 1998 there have been at least a total of 527 of these needless tragedies” (San Francisco State University).

I understand that parents feel rushed. There is never enough time in the day to complete all that needs to be done; however, when running to the store for milk and bread, resist the urge to leave your child in a hot car … even for one minute

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