The Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition, led by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, and St. Petersburg Fire Rescue are warning families to look before you lock. It’s an ongoing message the organizations are spreading earlier this year after two incidents in 2017 where Florida children were left in a hot car and died from heatstroke. Last year 39 children passed away from this type of heatstroke across the nation.
“It’s so easy to become distracted whenever you’re a new parent, tired or even just a change in routine,” said Beth Walford, M.D., pediatric surgeon and medical director of the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition.
Safe Kids and St. Petersburg Fire Rescue want to prevent these tragedies through a simple safety tool, a window cling that reminds families to “fight the heat and check the back seat.” At a news conference, safety experts urged local families to stick these on windows, in hopes of preventing another child from being left unattended in a vehicle and dying from heatstroke.
“Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels,” Walford says. “Young children are at the highest risk, as their body heats up three to five times faster than adults.”
Walford adds that it only takes a few minutes for a car to heat up and turn deadly for a child inside. Temperatures can rise by 19 degrees in a car in just 10 minutes. For children, symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death. In fact, when a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and if a child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
Safe Kids Worldwide offers other safety tips to avoid leaving children unattended in cars, by reminding families to ACT:
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Also, make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse, shoe or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination or consider using a daily calendar alert on your phone.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. One call could save a life.
To pick up a free window cling, visit a St. Petersburg Fire station or call the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition at 727-767-8581.