Last summer had barely begun and Texas had already suffered the tragic heat stroke deaths of 3 infants: a 7-month-old in Lufkin; a 3-year-old in Houston; and a 6-month-old in Melissa, a small North Texas town in Collin County.
That’s not even the worst of it.
According to the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University, Texas ranks No. 1 in the nation (by a country mile) for the most child vehicular heat stroke deaths, with 100 between 1998 and 2015. That’s an average of nearly 6 deaths per year, and we still have 6 months left in this one.
So what do you say we shoot for below average (very un-Texan-like, I know, but in this case a worthy goal) and take steps to prevent any more heatstroke deaths this year? Here’s how we can do it:
Know how hot is too hot.
The first hot car death of the year occurred in Georgia in mid-January. It was 52°F outside. And the child who died was 13 months old — a toddler, not an infant.
Shocked? So were we.
But when you consider it only takes 10 minutes for a car’s interior to heat up by 20 degrees and a child’s temperature rises 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s (data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), it’s not hard to see how the numbers can add up quickly.
So how hot is too hot? Let’s just agree that it’s ALWAYS too hot (or too cold) to leave a child alone in a car. And the NHTSA says it makes little difference whether the windows are rolled down or not.
We need to work together to eliminate hot car deaths.
Raising kids truly does take a village. If you see a child unattended in a car, Texas has a Good Samaritan law that can protect you from civil liability if you take action to render emergency assistance.
To break a window, find an object with a sharp edge and use it to hit one of the corner edges of the window, where the glass is weakest.
9 things you can do to protect your family.
- Never leave kids, pets or the elderly alone in a car
- Teach your kids not to play in vehicles and lock doors and windows when parked
- Check your vehicle’s interior and trunk if your child is missing
- Always look in the front and back of your vehicle before locking and walking
- Better yet, place something that you can’t leave the car without in the backseat next to your child, such as your purse, cell phone (a great way to avoid distracted driving), briefcase or one of your shoes
- Call your spouse (or have him/her call you) after you’ve dropped off your child
- Ask day care to call if your child doesn’t show up
- Create a custom two-sided rearview mirror hang tag that you can flip to indicate “baby on board” or “no baby on board”
- Set a recurring daily reminder on your calendar or smartphone, or download a baby reminder app
Know how to spot and treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke don’t just happen in hot cars, so look for the signs and symptoms listed below anytime you think someone is becoming overheated.
Al West, MD trauma surgeon at Medical City Plano, says to think of heat-related illnesses as a spectrum, beginning with dehydration (and possibly including muscle cramps). In fact, if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
As dehydration progresses into heat exhaustion, symptoms may include heavy sweating; rapid, weak pulse; feeling dizzy or tired; cold, pale, clammy skin; headache; nausea or vomiting; and fainting.
Treat heat exhaustion by moving the person to a cooler location and having him sit or lie down. Give sips of water. Loosen tight clothing and look for ways to cool the person down. Children and adults who are conscious can soak in a cool bath. If you’re outside, sprinkle the person with a hose. If he fainted, apply cool, wet cloths to as much skin as possible. If the person is vomiting continuously, seek emergency medical treatment.
If heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke, many of the symptoms will be similar but magnified and may include heavy breathing and a rapid, strong pulse. You’ll know for sure that it’s heat stroke if the person’s body temperature is more than 104°F and he’s stopped sweating. His skin may be red, hot and dry.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can lead to death if left untreated or incorrectly treated. Call 911 immediately.
Treat heat stroke using the same procedures for heat exhaustion BUT DO NOT GIVE FLUIDS.
Listen to Khang Tran, MD, chief medical officer of Medical City Plano, explain the basics of heat-related illnesses.
We hope you and your family stay hydrated and heat-safe all summer long, but if things get too hot, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Find a fast Medical City ER near you.