FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services is urging the public to take steps to avoid injury and illness during this period of extreme heat, particularly dangers associated with leaving children in vehicles. According to Safe Kids, 49 children in the U.S. died last year from heat stroke while unattended in vehicles. From 1998-2010, at least 494 deaths are known to have occurred nationally. In Kentucky, there have been 13 deaths attributed to vehicular hyperthermia during the same time period and one death every year since 2004.
“We want our citizens to understand the dangers of extreme heat, particularly the danger of leaving children in hot cars,” Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. William Hacker said in a press release. “Not only are extreme temperatures uncomfortable, they present a significant health threat. This is particularly true for vulnerable populations such as young children and the elderly.”
Several measures are recommended to prevent these types of deaths from occurring. They include:
-Create reminders. More than half of child heat stroke deaths occur because parents and caregivers become distracted and exit their vehicle without their child. To help prevent these tragedies parents can:
-Place a cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag or something that is needed at your next stop on the floor in front of a child in a backseat. This will help you see your child when you open the rear door and reach for your belongings.
−Set the alarm on your cell phone as a reminder to you to drop your child off at day care.
−Set your computer calendar program to ask, “Did you drop off at day care today?” Establish a plan with your day care that if your child fails to arrive within an agreed upon time, you will be called. Be especially mindful of your child if you change your routine for day care.
-Don’t underestimate the risk. The inside of vehicles can quickly heat up, even on relatively cool days, so you should never leave your child alone in a car. Don’t underestimate the risks and leave them even “just for a minute.”
-Lock cars and trucks. Thirty percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths in the U.S. occur because a child was playing in an unattended vehicle. These deaths can be prevented by simply locking the vehicle doors to help assure that kids don’t enter the vehicles and become trapped.
-Immediately dial 911 if you see an unattended child in a car. EMS professionals are trained to determine if a child is in trouble. The body temperature of children rises three to five times faster than adults. As a result, children are much more vulnerable to heat stroke. Check vehicles and trunks first if a child is missing.