Local team warns of heatstroke dangers

Outside of car crashes, heatstroke is the number one killer of children.

With the hot summer months fast approaching, the Sampson County Community Child Protection Team (CCPT) has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to educate parents, caregivers and the general public as a whole on the dangers of heatstroke and leaving children in hot cars, all in an effort to reduce those deaths. Last year, 44 children lost their lives nationwide.

“As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also rises,” said Shannon Blanchard, CCPT chairperson and director of the Sampson County Child Advocacy Center. “One child dies from heatstroke nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle, but what is most tragic is that the majority of these deaths could have been prevented.”

Sampson County’s CCPT urges all parents and caregivers to do three things in order to prevent potential deaths: never leave a child in a vehicle unattended; make it a habit to look in the backseat every time when exiting the car; and always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.

Should anyone ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away, the local group said.

“With rising temps, children left in hot cars is an increasing concern,” Blanchard remarked. “Our Community Child Protection Team will be issuing stickers to local business for placement in their windows or on their doors to remind parents to get children out of the car.”

The group began issuing those stickers this past week, distributing them to various local businesses in order to spread the word about heatstroke dangers.

Every other month, Blanchard noted, the CCPT reviews cases where social workers have identified a “gap” in necessary education or prevention measures, and that topic can receive the attention it requires.

“The issue of heatstroke and children being left unattended in hot cars came up as one of those gaps seen in Sampson County,” Blanchard pointed out. “Once a gap is identified, the CCPT members then work to develop ways to fill that gap. We decided in this situation we would print stickers and ask local businesses to place them on their doors. We want to educate the community on the dangers of this problem and help them recognize the symbol on the sticker as a reminder to get their child out of the car when it is hot outside.”

Know the warning signs of heatstroke is also key. Those signs include red, hot and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of those signs after being in a hot vehicle, the child should be cooled rapidly by being sprayed with cool water or with a garden hose, never an ice bath. In instances of heatstroke, call 911 immediately.

And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take triple-digit temperatures. A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

“More than half of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child accidentally being left in the car, and 29 percent are from a child getting into a hot car on their own,” said Blanchard. “We want to get the word out to parents and caregivers, please look before you lock.”