Thursday, 08 June 2017 18:40

Heatstroke: It Can Happen to Anyone; Know the Facts to Protect Your Kids

Since 1998, 701 children have died due to heatstroke after being left or trapped in a hot vehicle. Think this tragedy can’t happen to you and your family? Ask Raelyn Balfour.

Raelyn had heard about heatstroke’s dangers. Like many of us, she chalked it up to irresponsible parents leaving children behind in vehicles. Then one morning, while feeling tired, overwhelmed, and distracted—feelings familiar to most parents with young children—she mistakenly thought she had already dropped her 9-month-old son, Bryce, at daycare before she continued on to her office. In reality, he was still in the back seat of her car. By the time she realized it, heatstroke had taken Bryce’s life.

You’re more like Raelyn and other parents who have lost a child to heatstroke than you might realize. The fact is that heatstroke tragedies happen to loving, caring, attentive parents. The vast majority of these tragedies happen when a child is mistakenly left behind in a vehicle or when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle. 

Now that you know the truth about heatstroke, you can protect your family. Follow these tips:

  • Look Before You Lock. Get into the routine of always checking the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.
  • A Gentle Reminder. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place your phone, briefcase, or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.
  • A Routine Check. If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
  • A Key to Safety. You know to keep your vehicle locked, but also keep your keys out of reach; nearly 3 in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle.

Raelyn’s story also reminds us of another important heatstroke fact: it doesn’t have to be hot outside for a vehicle to get hot inside—hot enough to kill a child.

On the day Bryce died, the temperature was in the mid-60s. On a mild day, as low as 57 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees. If a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, that child will die. 

If you live in parts of the country with very mild winters, then heatstroke can happen any time of year. Tragically, 2017 has already witnessed two heatstroke deaths in Florida: a 1-year-old in Pinecrest in January and a 2-year-old in Brandon in February. 

NHTSA continues to investigate technologies that could alert a driver that a child is being left alone in a vehicle. Today, it’s still up to you to prevent heatstroke deaths and injuries. If you’re a mom or dad who has ever found yourself tired and overwhelmed—and that’s likely happened to every parent at one time or another—then heatstroke can happen in your family. Any parent can make this terrible mistake, so every parent should take steps to prevent it. Now that you know the facts about heatstroke, take action to protect your child and to prevent another tragedy. 

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