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Useful advice from the NHTSA to prevent children getting heatstroke in cars

Advice from the NHTSA on preventing heatstroke in children when traveling by car

12/08/2016

Heatstroke is one of the main causes of death in children. In view of this, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has taken steps to address this situation, noting that unfortunately even great parents can forget they have left their child sitting in the back seat. Some of the factors behind this are sudden changes of routine or that caregivers are not used to used to having a child in the car.

Children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults. In view of this, the US National Highway Administration offers a series of recommendations to avoid this situation. The fact is that an outside temperature of just 25ºC for 10 minutes is enough to give a child sitting in a car heatstroke, as reflected in the report drawn up by Fundación MAPFRE and the Spanish Pediatric Association, which also contains useful advice on preventing heatstroke, especially during the summer months.

LOOK BEFORE YOU LOCK

Mira antes de cerrar

  • Make absolutely sure there is nobody in the back seat before you lock the car.
  • Put a stuffed toy or another similar object in the child restraint system whenever it is empty and place it on the front seat when you're traveling with your child. This provides a visual reminder that you're not on your own. 
  • If you are not actually traveling with your child but someone else is, check that they have got to their destination safely.
  • Bear in mind that a car's temperature can rise by more than 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Even at an exterior temperature of 60ºF, the interior of a car can reach 110ºF. A child can die at a temperature of 107ºF. This infographic from Fundación MAPFRE clearly shows how temperatures can vary inside a car sitting in the sun:

Vehículo expuesto a la luz solar 

  • The NHTSA reminds us of the consequences of leaving a child alone in a car sitting in full sunshine: "serious injuries and even death, arrest or imprisonment, and a lifetime of regret...

TAKE ACTION IF YOU SEE A CHILD ALONE IN A CAR

The US National Highway Administration urges people to take immediate action if they see a child trapped in a vehicle. It reminds us that protecting children is everyone's business.

  • Don't wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return. 
  • If the child is unresponsive or in distress, immediately call 911 (112 in the European Union), get the child out of car and spray him/her with cool water (not an ice bath).
  • If the child is responsive, stay with the child until help arrives and get someone else to search for the driver or ask the child if they know how to contact their parents. 
  • You should be aware of the warning signs of heatstroke: red, hot and moist or very dry skin; no sweating; strong, rapid pulse or slow, weak pulse; nausea; confusion or strange behavior.

It is important that you understand the risk factors that can lead to heatstroke. For this reason, the NHTSA has created a quiz to test how much you know on the subject and urges people to spread the message

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