Hyperthermia: Take action to protect children from heat stroke

The tragic child deaths caused by heat stroke are preventable; learn more about how to “ACT” to keep your children safe.

Safe Kids USA, a national grassroots organization dedicated to the prevention of accidental death and injury in children, has launched the ACT campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of never leaving children alone in the car. The ACT acronym stands for “Avoid, Create reminders and habits and Take action.”

The first step, avoid, reminds us to never leave children unattended in a vehicle. Nineteen states have laws addressing this issue specifically, including Michigan. In Michigan, it is illegal to leave a child under the age of six alone in the vehicle for a period of time or in a situation that poses a risk of harm or injury. The child must be attended by a person over the age of 13 who is not incapacitated in any way. The penalty for violating the law varies from a misdemeanor, 90-day sentence and $500 fine if the child is uninjured to a felony, 10-year sentence and $5,000 fine if the child is seriously harmed or dies.

It is also critical to take steps to avoid children becoming trapped in vehicles. Always lock vehicles when not in use. Teach children that cars are not a place to play. If a child is missing, check pools, ponds or water sources first, and then cars, including trunks.

The second component of the ACT campaign is to create reminders and habits. With more than 52 percent of over-heating deaths occurring when a distract parent or caregiver forgets a child, it is important to take action to prevent this sort of tragic distraction from occurring. Experts recommend leaving something you will need to remove at your destination in the back seat of the vehicle, such as your laptop bag, purse or cell phone. Another tip is to keep a stuffed animal in the car seat, and when your child is in the car, place the stuffed animal in the front seat with you. There are cell phone apps that can be downloaded, such as Baby Reminder, a new iPhone app, to create reminders.

 Always have a plan with your child care provider or child’s school to that they will call you in the event your child is not dropped off. Make double-checking the back seats a part of your routine upon exiting the vehicle.

And finally, in the event you see a child alone in a vehicle, take action. Law enforcement agencies and safety experts recommend calling 911 if you become aware of a child left alone in a vehicle. Taking the time to call could save a child’s life.

Following these steps can reduce the risk that your child or loved one could be left behind in the vehicle. Take time today to create your reminders and habits, and always remember that children should never be left alone in vehicles.

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