May 1 is National Heatstroke Prevention Day and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is reminding parents and caregivers to always look before locking and walking away from a vehicle.
The yearly campaign is an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of vehicular heatstroke.
“Leaving a child unattended in a hot car is something no parent would ever imagine they would do, but it happens and is dangerous and tragic,” Sergeant Robert Hill said. “These tragedies are 100% preventable. Heatstroke Prevention Day is a reminder to parents that we are human and prone to be forgetful, even for the seemingly impossible.”
“Forgotten” circumstances, where a parent or caregiver forgets the child is in the car, account for nearly half of all total child vehicular heatstroke fatalities.
Last year, 24 children died of vehicular heatstroke, the lowest total since record-keeping began in 1998.
Families staying home during COVID-19 related health orders likely contributed to this decline in vehicular heatstroke deaths.
However, the percentage of children playing in and around the car increased.
The temperature inside of a car can rise nearly 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Children are more prone to heatstroke because their body temperatures rise much faster than adults.
“A child’s body temperature can rise five times faster than an adult’s,” Sergeant Hill said. “We understand it may be difficult to wake a child up or get them out when they do not want to leave the car, but even a few minutes alone can be dangerous.”
To help protect you and your family, keep the following tips in mind to help prevent child heatstroke:
– Make it a habit to look in the back seat every time you get out of the car. Put something in the back seat you are likely not going to forget as a reminder, such as a purse, phone, or wallet.
– Never leave a child alone in a vehicle, even if it is just for a few minutes.
– Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.
– Teach your children that the vehicle is not a playground. Another main cause of vehicular heatstroke is when children gain access to an unlocked vehicle and are unable to get out.
The warning signs of heat stroke include red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a rapid or weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or acting strangely.
If you see a child in a hot vehicle that appears to be in distress or is unresponsive, call 911.
If necessary, attempt to get into the car. A new “Good Samaritan” law went into effect in California this year providing legal protection for people who break into a locked vehicle to save a child in imminent danger.
Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.