Have you ever heard the term vehicular hyperthermia? It refers to the condition that occurs when a child is overheated while inside of a vehicle. This year alone there have been 7 documented incidents of child death from vehicular hyperthermia. This problem is not new. As of 1998, there have been more than 520 cases of children dying in hot cars.
Statistically, there are three main reasons that children die inside of a hot vehicle and with care, each can be prevented.
1. Parents intentionally leave kids in the car “just for a minute” (17%)
This is not only unsafe, but it is illegal in the state of Michigan! Even if you just, run up to the ATM, or inside a gas station where you can still “see the car”, the temperature of the car can rise up to 20 degrees in just 10 minutes! Heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. It is also important to know that children’s bodies are different. Their temperature can heat up five times faster than an adult’s. Kids should never be left alone in a car!
2. Children getting trapped inside of a car that they are “playing in” (30%)
You can help to prevent this from happening by always locking your vehicles (and trunks), teaching kids not to play in or around cars, and keeping keys out of a child’s reach. This applies to everyone with a vehicle, whether you have kids or not.
3. Parents forgetting that they child was in the car with them (52%)
When this occurs, it is hard to imagine how anyone can forget their own child. Typically, this occurs with a parent that does not usually take the child to daycare. The child may be a quiet baby or could be asleep, and the parent simply forgets that they are there. Make a conscious effort to always look in your child’s car seat, even if you know that they are not there. Some people even put their purses or briefcases in the back seat so that they are forced to look back there. (Make sure to buckle those bags up, so that they do not become projectiles in a crash). Tell your daycare or babysitter to call if the child does not arrive when expected or try this free Baby Reminder app. It may seem obvious, but as a new parent, sleep deprived or busy thinking about work, tragedies do happen.
The other (1%) of cases are of unknown circumstances, and there are probably several “near misses” that go unreported. If you ever see a child left alone in a car, call 911 immediately.
— Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System