With the death of a child in the back seat of a hot car already averted at least once in Sacramento County this summer, health experts are providing ways to avoid the potentially fatal occurrence during this week’s hot streak.
Across the nation at least 14 children have died from heat stroke suffered when left unattended in vehicles this year, according to the UC Davis Children’s Hospital.
“Kids and infants aren't able to regulate their body temperature very well,” said Stacey Salvato, clinical resource nurse at the hospital. “If a child's body temperature gets to 104 degrees, it can lead to heat stroke.”
Hospital experts warn in a press release that cracking open a window won’t help. Also, even when temperatures are relatively low, a vehicle’s interior temperature can ratchet up fast.
The temperature was in the low 90s at about 4 p.m. Aug. 21 when Citrus Heights resident Aubrey Singer noticed a baby left alone in a car seat in a Fair Oaks parking lot. She called 911, which brought Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District personnel to the scene.
Firefighters got the 8-month old baby from the hot, locked car. Safe Kids California awarded Singer with their Badge of Courage Award for saving the child from heatstroke.
A car can heat up 19 degrees in 10 minutes, according to a press release from Safe Kids. When a child's body temperature reaches 104 degrees, the internal organs start to shut down. When it reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
Since 1998, at least 652 children across the United States have died in cars from heatstroke, according to Safe Kids. There are also many rescues, including the Fair Oaks incident when Singer helped out.
“Heatstroke tragedies happen far too often and are completely preventable,” said Safe Kids California Director Katie Smith.
UC Davis Children’s Hospital says that experts recommend parents take certain steps for safety:
1. Check the backseat every time you park your car, even if you think you are not transporting your child.
2. Keep something you need in the backseat, such as a cell phone as a reminder to look there.
3. Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when not in use. Place the teddy bear on the front passenger seat to serve as a reminder that the baby is now in the car seat.
4. Lock the doors and put the keys away to stop children from getting into the car.
5. Tell childcare provider that if your child does not show up at day care or school without prior notice, someone should call you. This prevents absent-minded parents from driving to work or errands instead of dropping the children off at day care.
6. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
“Call 911 right away,” the Children’s Hospital’s Salvato. “And if they are unresponsive, get them out as quickly as possible.”