Not long ago, summer ushered in sunny, warm skies. Most of us welcome summer, letting our worries melt away. Unfortunately, warm skies have become h-o-t, breaking and tying thousands of records across the country.
Despite rising temperatures, drivers still leave their children and pets in vehicles unattended “just for a minute,” resulting in heatstroke and death. According to USA Today, 2010 was the deadliest year since records began in 1998 – 49 children died last year while trapped in vehicles. That is 11 deaths over the annual average. Because of the increase in deaths, counties across the nation have been promoting special campaigns to fight such tragedies. Just outside Las Vegas, the city of Henderson launched the “Check your seats in the heat” campaign to prevent deaths of children, elderly and pets left in hot vehicles.
What if it’s not that hot out?
It doesn’t have to be incredibly hot outside for heatstroke to occur. Vehicles essentially turn into ovens when in direct sunlight, raising temperatures significantly inside the vehicle. One death in California occurred when in the temperature outside was only 72 degrees Fahrenheit. For 7-month-old Sofia Wisher, the temperature inside her parents’ car probably topped 100 degrees.
Don’t forget about Fido, too
It’s not just children or the elderly who die of heatstroke in vehicles. Pets left in cars, even with a window cracked open for fresh air, are also at risk. Dogs of all sizes and breeds can become the unfortunate victims of heatstroke in their owners’ vehicles during summer months.
According to DogTopic.com, any breed of dog can die of heatstroke in a car within 30 minutes. That quick stop in Starbucks for a double latte that takes 25 minutes is cutting it too close for comfort.
Preventing heatstroke starts with you
- Do not leave children, elderly persons or pets in the car unattended – even if you have turned on the air conditioning. A vehicles temperature can rise from 70 degrees to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes if your air conditioning fails or your car runs out of gas.
- Don’t skimp on air conditioning. Using a little gas to turn on the air conditioning in your vehicle will help your passengers be more comfortable in high temperatures.
- Be prepared. If you’re going on a long trip, bring plenty of water for all passengers – of the two- and four-legged varieties. Get a maintenance check before leaving. Bring plenty of sunscreen, too. Pack a first aid kit. And, don’t forget a water bowl if you’ve got a dog on board.
- Recognize the symptoms of heatstroke.Children and elderly persons may not be able to communicate their temperatures to you verbally. Young children and animals definitely cannot. It’s up to you to identify the symptoms and get your passengers the care they need.
- For humans, symptoms include high body temperature, a lack of sweating, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate and strong pulse, headache, neurological symptoms (seizures, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying), and muscle cramps or weakness. The Mayo Clinic has extensive information about heat exhaustion and heatstroke, including risk factors, symptoms, prevention and treatment tips.
- For pets, watch for excessive panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, lethargy, a deep red or purple tongue and unconsciousness. For a full list of symptoms, as well as tips on keeping your pet cool during the summer, visit the Humane Society of the United States.
Stay cool and safe this summer
Take some time this summer to recharge your energy, enjoy some barbeques, get your feet wet and enjoy time with family. Just don’t forget these extra precautions to keep your passengers safe this summer. The statistics speak for themselves – don’t let your loved one become another number.