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Safe Kids: Never leave a child in a car alone

By Staff | Apr 18, 2012

Safe Kids kicked off a national campaign Tuesday to help prevent child deaths resulting from heat stroke when unattended in a vehicle.

Since 1998, more than 500 children have died in the United States due to such circumstances. Of the deaths, 52 percent were because the child was “forgotten” – 17 percent were when the child was intentionally left alone.

According to Safe Kids, a network of organizations working to prevent unintentional childhood injury, 30 percent of the cases that resulted in death involved a child who became trapped while playing in an unattended vehicle.

“The increase in the numbers of these deaths throughout the years really plays into how busy of a society we are,” Michele King, interim coordinator for Safe Kids Lee/Collier County, said Tuesday. “It can happen to anybody.”

The campaign, “Never Leave Your Child Alone In A Car,” aims to raise the awareness level of people on the issue through education, and it reiterates that children should never be left alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.

“Even on a mild day, the inside of a car can become really hot,” King said.

Temperatures inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes.

“Even if you leave the window down a little bit, it really doesn’t have an impact,” she said. “This obviously can be a problem year-round in Florida.”

“Never Leave Your Child Alone In A Car” reminds caregivers to “ACT.”

n Avoid heat stroke-related injury and death by:

– Never leaving a child alone in a vehicle.

– Consistently locking unattended vehicle doors and trucks.

n Create reminders and habits that give you and a caregiver a safety net:

– Establish a peace-of-mind plan. When you drop off a child, make a habit of calling or texting all other caregivers, so everyone knows where the child is.

– Place a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or other item that is needed at the next stop in the back seat of the vehicle.

– Set an alarm on a cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop off a child at childcare.

“What this campaign is really doing is helping cut down on the numbers of kids that are being left in the car by a distracted caregiver,” King said.

“Look before you lock – get into the frame of mind to always look in the back seat,” she said. “It’s preventable if people take the right measures.”

n Take action if you see an unattended child in a vehicle:

– Dial 911 immediately and follow the instructions that emergency personnel provide. They are trained to determine if a child is in danger.

“It’s really to let people know it is OK and they absolutely should call 911 if they see a child unattended in a vehicle,” King said.

A child’s body heats up three to five times faster that an adult’s body because the systems that regulate body temperatures are not developed. When a body temperature hits 104 degrees, internal organs shut down.

When it reaches 107 degrees, the person dies.

“Since it can happen so quickly, you really don’t have time to decide,” she said. “You’re really acting on the side of caution.”

The symptoms of heat stroke may include dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot and dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat or hallucinations.

For more information on “Never Leave Your Child Alone In A Car,” visit the Safe Kids Lee/Collier County website at: www.safekids-leecollier.org.