(Salt Lake City, UT) – In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars across the U.S., making it the deadliest year on record over the past 20 years. As warmer weather fast approaches, health officials with Safe Kids Utah and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) want to remind parents temperatures inside of a car can rise to deadly temperatures in a very short period of time, even during moderately warm days.
From 2001-2018, 692 children across the U.S. died from heatstroke due to being left in a hot car – that’s one child every 15 days.
“Sadly, so far this summer, we have seen 11 deaths due to kids being left in hot cars across the nation,” said Cambree Applegate, director of Safe Kids Utah at the UDOH. “These tragedies are happening far too often. They are heartbreaking and preventable, and a reminder for all of us to be aware of the dangers of leaving a child alone in a hot car.”
Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. It occurs when the body can’t cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Young children are particularly at risk since their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults’ bodies. Symptoms of heatstroke can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure, and even death.
“Many people are shocked to learn how hot the inside of a car can actually get. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute. You can only imagine what happens when the temperature outside is 100 degrees or more. And cracking the window doesn’t help,” said Applegate.
When a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
“The key to preventing these tragedies is for every parent and caregiver to understand that this can happen to anybody. It can also be avoided with a little awareness and by taking a few simple precautions,” said Applegate.
To help protect kids from this preventable tragedy, remember to ACT:
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Keep your car locked when you’re not inside so kids don’t get in on their own.
- C: Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other mementos 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 and secure your phone, briefcase, or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child. This will help you remember to check the back seat before leaving your vehicle.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.
For more information on preventing child heatstroke deaths, visit www.safekids.org/heatstroke.