Check Before You Go: Child Safety, Vehicles and Heat

Heat stroke is a leading cause of vehicle-related death for children. 

Posted: 07/31/2014 09:22 AM EDT

As a parent, you may have a billion and one errands to do with a small child in tow.

With all your responsibilities, you may forget that your child fell asleep in the backseat of the car as you head into the grocery store, or think you already dropped your child off at preschool.

While it’s never safe to leave a small child unattended, on a hot day, such a mistake could cost a life. It doesn’t take long for a child to die while left inside a hot vehicle. Heat stroke is a leading cause of vehicle-related death for children, says Rebecca Noe, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health.

And it doesn’t take a very hot day to pose a threat: When temperatures are in the 60s, a car can heat up to more than 110 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Parents should never leave their children alone in a car. Rolling a window down or leaving the air conditioning on while the motor runs is not enough to keep them safe.

Noe says parents may not realize that young children can’t express they are too hot or thirsty, and “often they don’t have the awareness of how to cool themselves off,” Noe says, which can lead to heat stroke.

If you see a child in a car who may be suffering from heat stroke, you should immediately remove the child from the vehicle and take her or him into a nearby air-conditioned building, Noe says. If you can’t open the car, call the police immediately.

“If you notice that the child is either lethargic or unresponsive then of course you want to call 911,” Noe says. “But while you’re waiting you can also cool the child down by pouring cold water over them or fanning them. You definitely just want to get them out of the hot environment as soon as possible.”

Read more about car child safety at BlackHealthMatters.Com.

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(Photo: Charles Gullung/Corbis)

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