‘Everyone Is Vulnerable to It': Experts Warn About the Risk Hot Cars Pose for Children

The temperature was only in the mid-80s the morning Eric Stuyvesant found his son inside the family's van. But it took just about an hour for the 3-year-old's skin to turn blue and for his big blue eyes to turn gray. Stuyvesant recalled his child's labored breathing when he pulled him out of the van that was parked outside of his Garland home in June 2015. Forgetting his son inside was an "indescribable" feeling, he said. "I was certain we were going to lose him," Stuyvesant said. "When you find him you feel like you've just killed your kid."Michael Stuyvesant suffered heatstroke, but he was fortunate — after six weeks in the hospital, he returned home. This fall, the 7-year-old will be entering first grade. Every year, dozens of families aren't as lucky. Since April, 20 children have died in the U.S. from heatstrokes inside vehicles, including four deaths in Texas, according to KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group that tracks child death statistics.Of the total hot car deaths from 1990 to 2018, 56% involve a child who was unknowingly left in the vehicle, according to the group. It's as easy as forgetting a pot of boiling water on the stove or where you left your car keys, Stuyvesant said."Everyone is vulnerable to it," he said. "It's part of the human condition." Dangerous temperatures On Tuesday, hours after MedStar demonstrated how to get a child out of a hot car, crews were called to a report of a toddler locked in a vehicle, Fort Worth fire department spokesman Mike Drivdahl said. The child was removed from the vehicle and was reported to be in stable condition. Inside a hot car, children can get heatstroke in a matter of minutes, said Dr. Veer Vithalani, the EMS medical director for MedStar, the ambulance provider that serves Fort Worth and other Tarrant County cities. Unlike adults, the mechanisms in a child's body that help them regulate extreme temperatures are not fully developed, he said. "Their body temperatures can rise three to four times faster than an adult's," Vithalani said. Heatstroke, a life-threatening condition, is the last stage of heat-related injuries, after heat cramps and heat exhaustion. It occurs when the body's temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though temperatures have been lower than average in Dallas-Fort Worth this summer, it doesn't take triple-digit heat for a vehicle to warm quickly and cracking a window doesn't make much of a difference. On a 93-degree day, it only takes five minutes for the temperature inside of a vehicle to rise to 100 degrees, according to a 2005 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics. After 15 minutes, the temperature rises to 110 degrees, and after 30 minutes, the temperature reaches nearly 120 degrees.Lock the vehicleSomething as simple as locking a car can save a child's life. More than a quarter of the children who died from heatstroke in a car got into the vehicle by themselves, according to a 2018 study by the National Safety Council. "Make sure that you lock your car," said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky. "If you're at home, at a shopping mall, anywhere you are, lock your car." Sarbesh Gurung, a 2-year-old boy, was found dead July 3 inside an SUV in Denton the morning after he was reported missing. Temperatures were around 93 degrees when he went missing. Police said they did not know if the SUV was unlocked or how the child got inside. Sarbesh's cause of death is pending, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.   Continue reading...

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