Child Heatstroke Call: What Every First Responder Dreads

Source: Anna Kraynova - 123RF

Responding to a call for a child who dies of heatstroke in a hot car is one of those events that EMS and other public safety professionals never forget and those who haven’t experienced it hope they never do.

Since 1998, more than 800 children have died from heatstroke in hot cars in the U.S., including 52 in 2018. On average, one child dies from heatstroke inside a vehicle nearly every 10 days in the U.S.

According to a report from ems.gov, most cases occur when a child is mistakenly left inside or gets into a vehicle unattended – and then becomes trapped.

It doesn’t take an especially hot day for a child to die from heatstroke. When the outside temperature is as low as 60 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach up to 110 degrees. If a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, that child will die from heatstroke.

July 31st is National Heatstroke Prevention Day where communities can learn about the dangers of leaving children in hot cars.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recommends the following:

  1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended—even if the windows are partially open or the engine is running, and the air conditioning is on;
  2. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle—front and back—before locking the door and walking away;
  3. Ask the childcare provider to call if the child doesn’t show up for care as expected;
  4. Place your purse or briefcase in the back seat to ensure your child isn’t accidentally left in the vehicle;
  5. Write a note or place a stuffed animal in the passenger’s seat to remind you that a child is in the vehicle;
  6. Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area and store keys out of a child’s reach;
  7. If you see a child alone in a locked car, get them out immediately and call 911; and
  8. A child in distress due to heat should be removed from the vehicle as quickly as possible and rapidly cooled.

Laws in 19 states make it illegal for children to be left unattended in a vehicle, but the laws vary considerably.

In California, for example, a child 6 or younger must be under the supervision of someone 12 or older if they’re in a motor vehicle.

According to Safewise, recent news reports about parents being prosecuted and losing custody of children after leaving them in cars has discouraged some people from getting involved if they see a child alone in a car.

While no one wants to unnecessarily cause pain and disruption to a family unit, the safety of children must always be the top concern.

To that end, if you observe a child alone in a car and are unable to easily locate the parent or guardian, you should contact the police.

Meantime, Fox News reports that police have arrested a Houston day care bus driver charged over death of 3-year-old in the 113-degree vehicle.

Maurice Mitchell, 62, was indicted Friday on a charge of second-degree injury to a child by recklessly causing serious bodily injury or death. 

Investigators say Raymond and 28 other children went on a field trip to a local park with the Discovering Me Academy on July 19, 2018. Daycare workers did not notice the boy was missing until 6:30 p.m. when Raymond’s father arrived to pick him up.

Staffers found Raymond unresponsive inside the bus and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Harris County deputies told FOX 26 their heat gauges showed temperature inside the bus to be 113 degrees when they first arrived at the scene.

Prosecutors allege Mitchell disengaged a passenger safety alarm, employed to ensure children were not left behind, without checking to make sure anyone was still on the bus.