ST. GEORGE — With triple-digit and record-breaking temperatures expected in Southern Utah this week, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital safety experts are issuing a reminder to parents to never leave a child in a vehicle – even for a minute – to prevent unintended injury or even death.
“Even when it’s not that warm outside in the early morning, the insides of cars heat up quickly and can present a serious hazard for children,” Jessica Strong, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “Everyone must remain vigilant to never leave a child alone in a car for any amount of time to prevent a tragedy.”
About 40 children across the country die each year after being left in a hot vehicle. In Utah, 13 children have died in hot vehicles since 1990, and others have suffered injuries in “close calls.”
Last year was one of the lowest years for heat stroke deaths with 25 deaths nationwide. In Utah, no hot car deaths were reported in 2020, the year of COVID-19 pandemic closures.
“My speculation is that with fewer people driving, and more parents working from home, there were fewer opportunities to leave children in cars, resulting in fewer deaths,” Strong said. “My hope, though, is that this decrease is the start of a trend in the right direction, which will continue until the number of deaths reaches zero.”
But with many businesses, summer camps and activities reopening, soaring June temperatures and family schedules disrupted by the start of summer, tragedy can happen quickly unless everyone is vigilant about safety.
Accidental heat stroke tragedies can happen to anyone, and it often occur when caretakers forget a child is in the car.
Stress, fatigue and change of routine can push a person’s brain into autopilot, making it easier to forget. Summertime can present more risk of injury due to hot weather and changes in routine, including children out of school and families staying up late for activities.
Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital is offering these “Hold On To Dear Life” child safety and injury prevention tips to help caretakers remember that a child is inside a vehicle to prevent unintentional injuries:
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle – even for a few minutes. A child’s body temperature can increase 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Cracking a window has very little effect on the temperature inside the car.
- Because of the tendency to go on “autopilot,” always check your vehicle before leaving it.
- Keep a visual reminder that a child is with you, like a stuffed animal or diaper bag in the seat next to you.
- Place something you’ll need when you arrive at your destination, like your briefcase, backpack, purse or cellphone, in the back seat. That way, when you reach for the item, you’ll likely see the child.
- If you see a child left alone in a car, contact the police or call 911.
The Primary Children’s Hold On To Dear Life child safety and injury prevention program is part of Intermountain Healthcare’s Healthy Kids initiative, and Intermountain’s “Primary Promise” to invest $500 million to create the nation’s model health system for children.
This investment in children’s health will be shared by Intermountain Healthcare and community philanthropic support through Intermountain Foundation’s emerging campaign.
For more information about child safety and injury prevention, visit primarychildrens.org/safety.
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