Vanderbilt experts provide safety tips after deadliest year for kids left in hot cars

Experts at Vanderbilt’s children’s hospital are offering heat prevention tips in the wake of the deadliest year for kids and hot cars.

“2018 was the deadliest year for child vehicular heatstroke,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Children’s Hospital. “Life is full of distractions and keeping track of where your children are is more important than ever.

Doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital say a child’s body heats up three times to five times faster than an adults. A child’s internal organs will start shutting down at 104 degrees.

“In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees and continue to rise,” she said. “Cracking a window does not help to reduce the temperature inside the car on an 85-degree day.”

In the past two decades, 30 children have died from vehicular heatstroke in Tennessee. In the state, it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

Children’s Hospital offers the following tips to avoid vehicle-related injuries or death:

  • Never leave your child alone inside the car, even for a minute.
  • Use cellphone or computer reminders to make sure children have been dropped off at the desired location.
  • If your child is missing, check vehicles and trunks first.
  • Teach your children to never play inside vehicles to prevent them from accidentally locking themselves inside one.
  • Be sure to lock all doors and windows to vehicles on your property.
  • Community members who see a child left alone in a hot vehicle should act immediately and call 911.
  • Look before you lock: Get into the routine of always checking the back seats of your vehicle before you lock it and walk away.
  • Leave yourself a gentle reminder: Get in the habit of keeping a stuffed toy or other memento in your child’s car seat, then move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when the baby is in the back seat. Or, place your phone, briefcase or purse in the back seat when traveling with your child.
  • Have a plan with childcare provider: If your child does not show up to daycare or school without prior notice, someone should call to locate the child. Have your child care provider call if your child is more than 10 minutes late.

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