(Tennova Healthcare) Each year in the United States, an average of 38 children and hundreds of dogs die from hyperthermia (heatstroke) in hot cars. While our initial reaction may be to assume these are cases of blatant cruelty or negligence, the truth is many are due to tragic errors on the part of otherwise loving, competent caregivers.
Tennova Healthcare wants the community to know that accidents can—and do—happen. Therefore, it is important to stay vigilant and know how to respond to a medical emergency, such as heatstroke.
“In addition to fatalities in hot cars, every summer dozens of children suffering from hyperthermia are seen in a Tennova emergency room,” said Amanda Singleton, RN, director of emergency services at Lakeway Regional Hospital in Morristown, TN. “Often, young children have been left alone for only minutes in a car, and parents return to find them suffering from rapidly increased body temperatures. There are far too many close calls—and it’s completely preventable.”
There are a number of misconceptions that contribute to these tragic episodes. First, there is the assumption that if it is cool outside, it can’t get very hot inside. However, this is not accurate. It can be a mere 70 degrees outside, and on a sunny day a car can reach 100 degrees within 15 minutes.
The perception that “cracking the windows” will somehow keep the temperature in a safe range is another dangerous myth. Open car windows have little effect on internal car temperatures on a sunny day. Body temperatures for children and pets rise three to five times faster than an adult’s, and brain damage or death can occur in a matter of minutes.
“It’s true that some children and pets are knowingly and negligently left inside hot vehicles,” Singleton said. “But in most cases, hot car deaths are a result of an adult’s lapse in memory. Working parents are often tired, stressed, and running on auto-pilot on their way to and from work or errands. The risk is particularly high when the child is sleeping in the back seat, or when the adult is traveling a path outside their normal routine.”
Experts suggest you can reduce the risk of hot-car fatalities by remembering to A.C.T.:
A = AVOID. Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car—not even for a minute. Be sure to keep your car locked when you are not in it, so kids don’t climb in on their own.
C = CREATE. Create a reminder by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse, or cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you are not following your normal routine.
T = TAKE ACTION. If you see a child or dog alone in a car, call 9-1-1 and stay with the victim. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations, and one call could save a life. If help does not arrive quickly and you note signs of immediate distress—such as lethargy, poor coloring or heavy breathing—engage witnesses and do what is necessary to ensure the victim’s safety.
“In the event you or someone you know experiences signs of heatstroke, don’t attempt to bring down the temperature too quickly,” Singleton said. “Don’t use ice or ice water. Instead, try to bring down the temperature gradually with cool spray or mild air conditioning. And dial 9-1-1 or proceed immediately to the nearest ER.”
Tennova Healthcare offers 24/7 emergency care at North Knoxville Medical Center, Turkey Creek Medical Center, Physicians Regional Medical Center, Jefferson Memorial Hospital, LaFollette Medical Center, Lakeway Regional Hospital, and Newport Medical Center. That means no matter where you live or work or travel in the region, you are close to quality emergency care.
For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit www.Tennova.com.