Caregivers must exercise vigilance to prevent heatstroke

BALTIMORE — The return of summer to the mid-Atlantic region means another word of caution about children being left in cars.

More than 670 children have died from heatstroke since 1998 after being left in hot cars, and there have already been 16 deaths so far this year across the country, according to San Diego State University.

One of this year’s deaths happened in Annandale, Virginia, back in April.

From 1998-2015, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have seen a total of 35 child vehicular heatstroke deaths. Twenty of which occurred in Virginia, 14 in Maryland and one in the District.

Being inside a vehicle can become dangerous very fast. Heatstroke sets in when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

Most of the heating happens within the first 10 minutes.  In a car temperature study, temperatures rose by almost 20 degrees on average during that span.  After an hour, temperatures were 45 degrees warmer than the exterior temperature.

The most common circumstance for a child vehicular heatstroke death to occur is a caregiver forgetting a child in the car, which happened about 54 percent of the time.

A child playing in an unattended vehicle was the second most common, happening about 29 percent of the time.

A caregiver intentionally leaving a child in a car happened about 17 percent of the time.

AAA mid-Atlantic said Maryland has a law against leaving a child in a car that could result in a misdemeanor for the caregiver.  In Virginia, the crime would fall under the state’s child neglect law.

In D.C., the auto club said there are no specific laws on the books penalizing caregivers who leave a child in a hot car.

San Diego State University recommends making sure all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading and not to overlook sleeping babies.

Other tips they offer is to keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when you put your child in that seat, move the animal to your front seat as a reminder.  Or, keep your purse in the back seat with the child.

Researchers also said that if your child ever goes missing, the first two places you should look are the pool and the car, including the trunk.  Children may go to these locations to play, and finding them early could save their lives.

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