Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Summer campaign raises awareness to prevent child heatstroke

14th July 2014   ·   0 Comments

The Louisiana Weekly
Staff Reports

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has joined a national effort to help protect children from the dangerous effects of heatstroke.

According to the a news release from LHSC, at least 619 children across the United States have died of heatstroke after being left unattended in vehicles that become overheated since 1998.

Beginning this summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is implementing its ”Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” radio and internet campaign to educate parents, caregivers, grandparents and others about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles and the effects of heatstroke that may result. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is participating in the effort.

“The inside temperature of a car can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window partially open,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Everyone, not just those driving with children in their vehicles, can play a role in saving kids from heatstroke deaths and injuries.”

In Louisiana, temperatures can reach into the 90s during many summer days, greatly increasing the the risk of heatstroke. Even on cooler days, vehicles can reach dangerous temperatures, according to the LHSC.

Many heatstroke deaths and injuries result from an adult forgetting that a small child is in the rear seat when exiting a vehicle. In other instances, some children die after entering a parked vehicle through an unlocked door or open trunk and are unable to get out.

Heatstroke symptoms can include a high body temperature; a lack of sweating; nausea and vomiting; flushed skin (skin may turn red as body temperature increases); rapid breathing; an increased or racing heart rate; throbbing headaches; confusion (may include seizures, hallucinations or difficulty speaking or understanding others); unconsciousness; and muscle cramps or weakness.

According to the Mayo­cli­nic­.­org, a body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, the skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, the skin may feel moist.

Heatstroke follows two other, less serious heat-related conditions: Heat cramps and heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps is caused by initial exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion. The signs and symptoms can include excess sweating, fatigue, thirst and cramps(in the stomach, arms or legs).

Heat exhaustion occurs when the effects of heat cramps go unaddressed.

To prevent heatstroke, child safety advocates recommend that drivers place something they’ll need at their final destination, such as a cell phone, purse or briefcase, next to a child to avoid forgetting the child is in the rear seat. This is especially important when the adult is not following his or her normal routine.

However, safety experts urge everyone to be aware that children left unattended in a vehicle can be in danger of suffering a heatstroke even when outside temperatures are moderate. If you see a young child in a parked car for more than five minutes, consider taking these actions:

• First make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.

• If the child appears okay, attempt to locate the parents.

• If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.

• If the child is not responsive and appears in great distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child.

• If the child is in distress from the heat, get him or her out of the car as quickly as possible and begin a rapid cooling process.

Louisiana law provides for fines and possible jail time of up to six months for persons who leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses. State law describes “unattended” as “a child who has been left in a motor vehicle when the driver or operator of the vehicle is more than 10 feet from the vehicle and unable to continuously observe the child.”

David T. Baker contributed to this report.

This article originally published in the July 14, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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