House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today's column is written by Quenlyn Larson, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Sutter Coast Community Clinic.
Every year countless children die from hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being left unattended in the back seat of a car.
Since 1998, 529 children have died from heat stroke by being left in an unattended car. Thirty-three children died in 2010, and two children have died thus far in 2012, with the majority under 2 years of age. Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented.
Pets are also at risk for heat stroke if left in a car in hot
weather. Their body heat can reach dangerously high temperatures on a
hot day just like children and they need our help in keeping them safe.
People may not realize that leaving their pet in a locked car even with
the window rolled down will not keep them cool.
In just minutes, the inside of a car can become dangerously hot for a
child and/or pet. You might think that leaving your child and/or pet
inside in the back seat of a car even with the window cracked for a few
minutes cannot possibly harm them, but think again.
Even on a mild day, the temperature inside of a closed car can
quickly rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Even with the high
temperatures we get in Crescent City, in the 70s, or when traveling to
areas inland with higher temperatures like Southern California or
Brookings, in the 80s, the temperature inside a car can reach 90andndash;100
degrees in the time it takes to run a quick errand.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It happens when the body cannot
cool itself fast enough and the body's core temperature rises to
dangerous levels. Symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness,
disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, hot dry flushed skin
but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heart rate, and
California is one of the 19 states in the country that has laws that
specifically address leaving a child unattended in a car. It states that
a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who
is 6 or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without
being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 or older under
either of the following circumstances: 1) where conditions are present
that pose a significant risk to the child's health or 2) when the
vehicle's engine is running or when the vehicle's keys are in the
ignition and/or both. A violation is punishable by a $100 fine; however,
nothing prohibits additional prosecution.
The best approach is to never, never leave kids or pets unattended
in a car, not even for one minute. If you see a child unattended in a
hot car, call 911 or your local police. Be sure that everyone leaves the
car when you park and don't overlook sleeping babies.
Always lock your car and make sure children do not have access to
your car keys. Tell your children that cars are never to be used as a
place to play in. Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when your
child is in the car seat put the stuffed animal in the front seat to
remind you to look in the back seat before you leave the car.
Place your purse or brief case in the back seat as a reminder that
your child is in the car with you. Make it a habit to look before you
leave whenever you get out of your car and have a plan that your
child-care provider will call you if your child does not show up for
Stay safe, beat the heat, and check the back seat! Your child's life
or the life of your pet may depend on it. For more information go to
Safe Kids USA website at www.safekids.org.
Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital, firstname.lastname@example.org.