Preventing tragedy from summer heat

New campaign aimed at preventing hot car deaths

Author: Rachel McNeill, Anchor/Medical Expert, rmcneill@kprc.com
Published On: Jun 21 2012 06:12:28 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 21 2012 06:44:07 AM CDT
HOUSTON -

It was a heartbreaking scene last May, a seven month old Sugar Land boy died after his father left him in the back seat of his truck. That day, the temperatures only reached 89 degrees.

Debbie Marley, manager of Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Childhood Injury Prevention said unfortunately, what happened to that Sugar Land family mirrors other cases.

Marley explained, "There's a change in routine in the summer that happens quite often and 52 percent of the cases where kids are left in the vehicle, (it's) because of a change in routine."

Marley said the temperature inside a car can climb 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. She wants families to remember the word ACT.

She told Local 2, "'A' is to avoid leaving your child unattended in the vehicle."

She said 'C' is for create reminders, "Put a toy or something on the front seat to remind you that there's a child in the back seat.An alarm on your cell phone that reminds you that it's your turn to pick up or drop off."

And 'T' for take action is you see a child alone in a vehicle.

Marley added, "Call 911 and wait there with that child until emergency help arrives."

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can also be dangerous effects of the rising temperatures.

TCH Adolescent and Sports Medicine Dr. Jorge Gomez spelled out the difference, "With heat exhaustion, your body is still able to do the things it needs to do to maintain a normal body temperature whereas with heat stroke, those cooling mechanisms that the body has are overwhelmed. The body can't maintain a normal body temperature, so the body temperature goes up."

Dr. Gomez said you can't always rely on kids to give you the heads up, so keep a close eye on them.
He explained, "They may not complain of anything, but the parents may see they're looking a little tired, a little sad or a little quiet and they parent asks, 'What's wrong?' 'Well, my head hurts. I feel kind of achy' and by that time, they're probably already significantly dehydrated."

Dr. Gomez said get them inside to a cool place as soon as possible and give them water until they feel better.

He said water is also the key to prevention.

He recommended, "Hydrate before you head out. Give them plenty to drink before they go out, while they're out and for sure when they come back."

Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke.

The person may be listless and still not feeling better after 20 or 30 minutes of hydrating.

Heat stroke is considered a true medical emergency and can be fatal.