Cars can be a deathtrap for children
The danger of leaving a child in a car was demonstrated by staff of Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach on June 7 as Dr. Steve Swearingen, emergency medicine physician, sat in a car with windows up for 15 minutes.
Swearingen kept track of his heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen level with a monitor in the car, while providing a running commentary on a live Facebook post by the hospital.
Since 1998, there have been 749 deaths nationwide due to pediatric vehicular heatstroke, according to a statement provided by the hospital. Recent studies show a vehicle parked in the sun for just an hour reached an average cabin temperature of 116 degrees.
In child-death cases, the parents often state they forgot the child was in the car. Lindsay Cashio, hospital spokeswoman, said parents should use a method to remind them whenever a child is in the car. For example, she said the parent could leave a purse or cell phone in the backseat with the child. Another method is to keep a stuffed animal in the child car seat, and place the toy in the front seat whenever a child is in the car seat.
When a core body temperature of 107 degrees or greater is reached, cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down. This cascade of events can rapidly lead to death, and happens much faster with a child, according to Heather Churchwell, a paramedic who was on hand to monitor the test.
Swearingen said hot cars are also a problem for animals. Sometimes people will crack a window, but this does not prevent the car from becoming hot. He said if a person sees a child or animal in hot car, they should call 911.
The car was cooled before the test. When the test began and Swearingen got in the car, a bank of clouds blocked the sun, but the temperature in the car rose to 102 degrees.
“I feel a little woozy,” he said after exiting the car. “I’m glad to be out.”
He added that if it had been sunny, he’s not sure he could have lasted the 15 minutes.
He said he mostly concerned about his heart rate, which climbed to 110 beats per minute. His blood pressure was 140 over 88.
Heatstroke symptoms include: dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, and hallucinations.
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