Keeping kids safe in the summer heat

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The first heat wave of the summer has arrived in Rhode Island, and it’s hot outside. But not as hot as the interior of a closed car or truck.

In the last week in the United States, four children under the age of four have perished after being forgotten or left behind inside an automobile. So far this year, 23 children have died in hot cars, while 682 kids have died of heatstroke in sealed autos since 1998.

Children are much more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults, and on days like today, when the mercury spikes above 90, the air inside a car can reach over 150 degrees in just minutes. A dashboard or black steering wheel can quickly heat to 200 degrees. For any children stuck inside, the family vehicle becomes a death trap.

It only takes a moment for a parent or caretaker to have a brief lapse of judgment. Even the most dedicated moms and dads can forget. In a world where parents are connected electronically to work 24 hours a day, with hectic schedules, deadlines, responsibilities and exhaustion, a simple mistake or change in routine can lead to an overwhelming tragedy.

But it’s not always an adult who is responsible. It’s summer break – kids will play, and a vehicle can become an enticing spot for a child to hide and become trapped.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers the following suggestions for caregivers:

Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.

Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.

If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.

In 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees. Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside your car can reach 110 degrees. A child dies when his or her body temperature reaches 107 degrees.

If you see a child alone in a car, don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return. If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately call 911, get the child out of the car and spray them with cool water. Stay with them until help arrives.

For tech savvy guardians, two new apps are available for download to prevent a child from being forgotten. “Precious Cargo” and “Kars4Kids Safety” are recommended by Parents magazine as effective tools with alarms for just these circumstances. More information is also available at the NHTSA’s website, safercar.gov.

As you enjoy the summer, take a look at the parked cars in the streets and lots around you, in the off chance a child has been left behind. It could prevent a tragedy from happening in our community.

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