By M.J. Subiria Arauz
As temperatures begin to heat up, leaving a child alone in a vehicle can cause serious health problems, even death, according to a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Community Health.
About 38 children die from heatstroke annually, and 50 percent of those cases are caused by adults leaving children inside a vehicle, said Joye Burton. In 2010, 49 children in the nation died of heat stroke, because they were left inside a car, including three youngsters in Georgia, she said.
Burton said even when temperatures outside are in the low-to mid-70s, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise by as much as 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.
In Georgia, this often occurs in the spring, summer and fall seasons, added Dr. Seema Csukas, medical director for the maternal and child health program, of the Department of Community Health.
"A child's body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult's, putting kids at greater risk for heat stroke," said Csukas. "Quick action by concerned by-standers can save children left in cars."
Burton said the Department of Community Health joined forces with Safe Kids Georgia, to educate parents, and try to reduce the number of child deaths due to heatstroke. Safe Kids Georgia is an organization dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injury, according to its web site, www.safekidsgeorgia.org.
If a bystander sees a child alone inside a vehicle, the person should immediately call 911, said Burton. If the child is hot, and appears to be sick, the person should quickly get them out of the car, she said.
Not even for a minute, should parents or guardians leave a child alone in a car, even with the windows down, while the engine is running, she continued.
A helpful way of remembering a child is in the back seat of the vehicle is to leave a cell phone, purse or briefcase on the floor of the back seat area, she said.
Burton said parents should set a reminder titled, "Did you drop off at daycare today?" on their cell phone or computer calendar. They should also ask their youngster's childcare provider to call immediately, if the child did not arrive to the facility when he, or she, was expected.
Car keys should not be accessible to children, and car doors should be locked at all times, said Burton. Children should be taught not to play in, or around, cars. If a child is missing, parents and guardians should check the car, and the trunk of the car, first, she added.
" Preventing heat-related child deaths in cars is a simple, yet important reminder to us all, as the weather gets warmer," added Csukas.