As temperatures increase and family schedules change, parents and caregivers should avoid leaving children unsupervised in or near vehicles.
“Even with the windows partly open temperatures in a vehicle can spike to 160 degrees Fahrenheit within a matter of minutes on a hot and humid day, and a young child can suffer from heat stroke,” said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of the Division of Emergency Preparedness and Response with the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). “Most of these cases are preventable.”
Children in vehicles under extreme heat conditions are vulnerable. Heat stroke, a life-threatening emergency, can occur in temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on humidity levels. Body temperatures higher than 105 degrees Fahrenheit can cause permanent brain damage or even death, especially among children.
Other serious injuries occur when children get entrapped in trunks or when they set a vehicle in motion leading to crashes. DCH is working alongside Safe Kids coalitions across the state to increase awareness about child safety.
“Injuries and deaths can be prevented through awareness, supervision and adult intervention such as locking doors and teaching children that vehicles are not playgrounds,” said Lisa Dawson, director of the Injury Prevention program.
Parents and caregivers can assess and revisit these recommendations:
- Make your car safer. Always keep car doors and trunks locked, even in the garage or driveway, to keep kids out. Treat it as the multi-ton, fast-moving enclosure and piece of machinery that it is. Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to prevent kids from getting into the trunk from inside the car
- Supervision is key. Even if the windows are down, never leave your child unattended in a car. Never leave your car keys where children can get them. Teach children not to play in or around cars. If a child is missing at home, check the car first, including the trunk
- Adopt safety-focused behaviors. Consider placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car. Be sure everyone leaves the vehicle when you reach your destination
- Notification plan. Consider having your child’s teacher or childcare provider call you if your child does not arrive when expected
- Get involved if you see a child alone in a vehicle. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 or your local emergency number immediately
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