Higher Temperatures Mean Higher Risks for Child Safety

By Samantha Kramer, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
July 2, 2012; 6:08 PM ET
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Photo courtesy of Photos.com

As temperatures rose into triple-digit numbers across the nation last week, so did the warnings about leaving children in hot vehicles.

It's a tragedy that occurs every year but can easily be prevented, said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Two years ago, 50 children were killed from heat exhaustion while being left inside a vehicle, Carr said. The number dropped to 33 last year, but it's a number Carr wants to see go down to zero.

"It's a totally preventable injury," Carr said. "So far this year, six children have been killed. That's six too many."

Carr said over half of the fatalities occur when a parent accidentally leaves a child in the car doing something that isn't part of their daily routine.

"A lot of people say, 'How could that happen?' When your day has changed somewhat, your brain locks into the normal routine, and they forget," Carr said.

Depending on the state and the situation, parents and caregivers can be charged with child endangerment and manslaughter, even if the kids are left unintentionally.

An Associated Press 10-year analysis showed that in the 310 fatalities that occurred from children dying from hyperthermia after being trapped in a vehicle, charges are filed in half the cases.

Sometimes parents intentionally leave their children in the car to run a quick errand. But in the heat waves the country's been seeing recently, a car's temperature in an asphalt parking lot can climb 20 degrees every 10 minutes.

In addition to the quickly rising heat, children's bodies heat up much faster than an adult's, Carr said. Children's internal systems are not fully developed, so they don't sweat as much and absorb heat faster.

Carr said that once the child's body temperature reaches 104 degrees, their internal organs begin to shut down. At 107 degrees, a child dies.

Safe Kids Worldwide launched a campaign that passes on the message to parents to never leave children alone in the car, not even for a minute. Parents and caregivers should be mindful that it's not just an issue for states with typical warm climates, or for the summer months of June, July and August. These fatalities are recorded 11 months of the year in almost every single state, Carr said.

"This is something to be aware of all the time," she said.

SEE ALSO: Heat Waves Can Cause Playground Skin Scalders

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