Children's bodies aren't able to regulate heat the way an adult's body can. When the core temperature of a body reaches 104 degrees you risk heat stroke and children's bodies can reach this temperature three to five times faster then an adult body.
In the wake of mounting death tolls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Safe Kids Worldwide are promoting Heatstroke Awareness Day on July 31st in the hopes that more deaths can be averted with heightened awareness. Even with a steady stream of press and public education, leaving children in cars still happens during heatwaves like the one gripping the Northeast. In many cases it's an accident, though it can be difficult to distinguish between honest oversight and raging stupidity. Typically, a mother or father on their way to work gets distracted, a child may fall asleep in the car and thus not be making any noise, the daycare drop-off get skipped. The child then swelters until someone notices they're missing.
That's excatly what happened in the case of Gabriella Gi-Ny Luong, who became the 21st child to die this year in a hot car. Her mother left 11-month-old Gabriella in her SUV for three hours while at work. She was alerted that something was wrong when the babysitter called asking why Gabriella hadn't been dropped off. AL.com reported that the baby was found unresponsive and died despite paramedics efforts to revive her.
What is absolutely unimaginable is someone who leaves children in a hot car on purpose. Despite the public warnings and the mounting heat deaths this year a New Hampshire man intentionally left his four children alone in a hot parked car.
Police told the Boston Herald that 28-year-old Jeremiah Hollenbeck went into a Family Dollar store for 10 minutes, leaving his 9-year-old, 5-year-old, and 9-month-old twins alone in the car with the windows rolled up in 100-degree heat. Luckily, a passerby spotted the children and called police. Hollenbeck was taken into custody and the children were treated for serious heat-related symptoms at a nearby hospital.
Here are some prevention tips:
- Keep your briefcase or workbag in the back seat of the car, next to your child's car seat. It's an easy way to remind yourself to open a back door.
- Keep your cell phone on the floorboard of the back seat.
- Keep something beside you in the front seat, such as a stuffed animal, as a reminder the child is in the back seat.
- Make an arrangement with your daycare provider that they will call should you not show up on a day the child is scheduled for care.
- When a child is missing, check vehicles and trunks immediately.
- If you see a child in car alone on a hot day? Get involved. Call police or a security guard if it is a building parking lot. If they seem tired or sick, call 911 immediately. Only break the window glass yourself as a last resort, and if first-responder help is not immediate.