Hot cars a danger for children

Mesa County hasn’t had a child die as a result of being left in a hot car in at least two decades. But Mesa County Health Department officials don’t want to a take a chance on breaking that streak.

The health department wants to remind adults this summer that even a short time locked in a vehicle on a warm day can be hazardous to a child’s health. On a 93 degree day, the interior of a vehicle with its windows cracked can heat up to 113 degrees in 10 minutes, reach 125 degrees in 20 minutes and heat to a sizzling 140 degrees in 40 minutes.

Ten children in the U.S. have died so far this year and 33 died last year as a result of heat stroke after being left in a hot car, according to Kansas-based KidsandCars.org, a vehicle danger awareness organization.

“Fatalities occur each year in the United States as a result of children being left in a vehicle. These deaths are preventable and we want parents and caregivers to be aware of the extreme dangers of such actions,” Mesa County Health Department Director Jeff Kuhr said in a press release.

Although any person can suffer in such a sweltering environment, Mesa County Health Department spokeswoman Karen Martsolf said Sunday children and infants are particularly at risk of developing heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke because their bodies are smaller and less adept at self-regulating body temperature. Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to sweat or self-regulate temperature and can result in death or permanent disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than half of U.S. heat-related deaths in vehicles among babies and children have been linked to parents forgetting a child in a hot car. Children have also died after being intentionally left in a vehicle by a parent or while playing in an unattended vehicle.

Martsolf said the health department also recommends not leaving children in a hot vehicle unattended for any amount of time and to use reminders like a teddy bear in the front seat or placing a purse in the back seat to jog a parent’s memory that a child is traveling in the back seat.

“In the summer time, children tend to play outside a little longer and they like to play hide and seek. A young child can hide in a trunk of a car and get locked in with no way out,” she said. “We recommend you always lock your vehicle to avoid these types of tragedies.”


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