National Heatstroke Prevention Day raises awareness

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 11:16 am

VENICE, Fla. -- When it's hot outside, the temperature inside of your car quickly heats up like an oven, and can be more than twenty degrees higher inside than out.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children under the age of 14. Almost every 10 days a child dies from being left in a hot vehicle.

4 and a half year-old Payton Carver is able to tell you she's feeling the heat, unlike her 15 month old baby brother Mason.

“I don’t want to be left alone in a hot car.” Why not? “Sweaty.”

Small children are not only unable to tell you they're hot, they can’t voice any of the symptoms—and can’t get themselves out of the car in times of emergency.

Jodi Dellavalle, a paramedic in the trauma center at Blake Medical Center says she has seen several victims of heatstroke resulting from hot cars.

Just this last month, a Florida man’s daughter died after spending hours in a hot pickup truck. Sarasota mom Colleen Carver says this should never happened.

“It's just devastating to think that a child would sit in the heat for any amount of time and die as a result,” Carver said.

She says she wouldn’t leave her children in a hot car even for one second. “You don’t realize how quickly the temperature rises and how much it rises.”

Trauma nurse Catherine Turner says kids left in hot cars can easily get heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

“When children sit in a car with it being seventy, eighty degrees outside, it can actually be thirty, forty degrees hotter in a car after a short period of time.”

In only10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees; and in summer months, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly exceed 110 degrees.

“Their core temperature would go up, they would have an increase in their heart rate, they can become lethargic and unconscious, and they can even die,” described Turner.

As included in the symptoms, you may “start sweating, your heart starts racing, and then you get dry, and you can go unconscious, have seizures.” The very young are also more vulnerable to this because a child's body temperature increases up to five times faster than an adult's.

Turner says people have a false sense of security. “I understand that you’re in a hurry and it's a pain to take the kids in and out of the car, but, it's just not worth the risk, even if you're going for a second.”

The risk simply should not be taken, says Turner. “Go through the drive through, you know, do whatever you need to do, take the kids with you. Don't leave them in the car.”

“They should never leave their child in the car, either their child or their pet in their car. People have the wrong idea that if they leave a window ajar that they're going to be quick, that they'll be okay; but there's always the risk that they could get tied up and be longer.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids Worldwide are highlighting the dangers of child heatstroke in hot cars and urging parents and caregivers to think, "Where's baby? Look before you lock.”

While the full scope of the fatalities of children due to heatstroke in vehicles is not fully known, NHTSA and other safety advocates and academic institutions have recognized the safety threat heatstroke poses for young children left in hot cars. Together, the federal government, auto makers, car seat manufacturers, health and safety advocates, consumer groups, and others are working together to tackle this important safety issue.

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