As temperatures climb, so does the risk for heat-related illness due to hyperthermia (overheating). The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds parents that children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under age 4 are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses.
Heat stroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash, vehicle–related death for children. In the United States, a child dies from heat stroke in a vehicle every 10 days. Parents and caregivers of young children should especially keep in mind that vehicles heat up quickly and can be extremely dangerous for children.
A report from the National Safety Council indicates more than half of deaths of kids in hot cars were at home, and 25 percent of deaths occurred at the caregiver’s workplace. The report also states there were 21 deaths of children in hot cars in Oklahoma from 1998-2017.
OSDH offers the following safety tips to keep Oklahoma children safe in cars during extreme heat:
Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute, even if the windows are open.
• The temperature inside a vehicle can rise to more than 140 degrees Farenheit when the outside temperature is 101 degrees Farenheit, and a child’s body temperature can increase three to five times faster than an adult’s body temperature.
• Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes, even with the windows cracked.
Look before you lock. Always check the back seat. Check to ensure all children are taken out of the vehicle when reaching the destination. More than 50 percent of cases of children dying in hot cars occurred when a distracted caregiver forgot that a child was in the back seat. Even great parents can forget a child in the back seat.
• Set up a reminder– a phone call from a friend or spouse, a note on the vehicle dashboard, or place something needed for the day (such as a purse, briefcase, or cell phone) in the back seat so you will check the back seat and see the child before leaving the vehicle.
• Be especially careful when changing routines for dropping off children for child care. Heat stroke incidents occur when people’s routine is disrupted.
• If transporting children and cargo, such as groceries, take children from the vehicle first.
• Make sure the child care provider has a system in place to prevent leaving children alone in their van or bus.
Keep vehicle doors and trunks closed and locked. Up to one-third of heat-related deaths among children occurred when a child was playing in an unlocked vehicle and became trapped inside.
• Keep vehicle keys out of reach and out of sight. Teach children not to play in or around vehicles.
• Teach children that vehicle trunks are not safe places to hide. Show children how to use the emergency trunk release if they become trapped inside.
If a child is seen alone in a locked, parked car, it is permitted by law to forcibly enter the vehicle to rescue the child. Call 911 immediately for emergency assistance. Once the child is out of the vehicle, stay with the child in a safe place near the vehicle until emergency responders arrive.
To receive more information on summer car safety, contact the OSDH Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://ips.health.ok.gov and click on Fact Sheets and then click Kids in Hot Cars.