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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Marion County health officials urging community to protect children from hot car injuries, deaths

As the temperature continues to swelter, the Florida Department of Health in Marion County is imploring the local community to be vigilant about protecting children from heatstroke-related injuries and deaths in vehicles.

Last week, a 3-year-old boy tragically died in Miami Gardens after he was left in his father’s car as the outside temperature rose to 93 degrees. The incident was the 10th time this year that a child in the United States died under such circumstances, according to NoHeatStroke.org.

Children can die in these situations because they are not nearly as adept at dealing with rising summertime temperatures as adults. NoHeatStroke.org reports that a child’s core body temperature increases three to five times as quickly as an adult.

That situation is compounded inside a vehicle, where the internal temperature can escalate rapidly in a short period of time. On an 80-degree day, which is mild for the summer in Florida, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 106 degrees in just 15 minutes.

A child left in such an environment becomes susceptible to heatstroke, which aside from car crashes is the leading cause of vehicle-related deaths among children.

Major organs begin to shut down when a child’s core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, and death can result if that temperature reaches 107 degrees.

Children who begin to succumb to heatstroke will show the following symptoms: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, a rapid heart rate, and hallucinations.

If you notice a child alone in a car who seems to be in distress, do not hesitate to call 911.

Since 1998, over 900 children in the United States have lost their lives due to heatstroke in an overheated vehicle, according to NoHeatStroke.org.

One important thing to remember is that this tragedy can strike any family, even the most devoted, loving, and caring of parents. The child-safety group Safe Kids Worldwide says that such incidents occur most often when there is a change in the family routine.

For that reason, Safe Kids encourages parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to “ACT:”

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injuries and deaths by never leaving a child alone in a car for any amount of time. In addition, make sure to lock your car when you are not in it so children are unable to access it on their own.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child that you will need when you arrive at your destination. For example, that can include a purse, wallet, or cellphone. This is vital if your family’s normal routine has changed. Make it a habit to look in the back seat or open the back door before walking away from your car.
  • T: Take action if you see a child alone in a car, especially if he or she is younger. Call 9-1-1. First-responders want people to contact them. One call could save a life, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

It is illegal in Florida to leave a young child alone in a car.

Under state law, a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child under 6 cannot leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes, or for any length of time if the motor is running or if the child is in danger or appears to be in distress.

Any law enforcement officer who observes a child left unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle is authorized to use any means deemed reasonably necessary to protect the child and remove him or her from the vehicle. In those cases, the child will be turned over to Department of Children and Families, unless the officer can locate the parents or the person responsible for the child.

These heartbreaking incidents are wholly preventable if parents, grandparents, guardians, and other caregivers remain vigilant and alert when transporting children. The Florida Department of Health in Marion County encourages all adults to pay attention before leaving their car if they have children with them.

For more information about heatstroke-related injuries and deaths in vehicles, and how to prevent them, visit the Safe Kids Worldwide and No Heat Stroke webpages.