Heat demands extra care for children
The first day of summer was June 21, but 90-plus degree days in St. Mary Parish began before that. Warmer temperatures and school breaks lead to all sorts of outdoor family activities and recreation. Soaring heat and soaking humidity levels call for additional caution and planning.
Parents and caregivers should take extra precautions for children in their care, particularly regarding the risks of heat stroke and drowning, according to a news release from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Since 1989, the department has investigated 22 deaths of children suffering from hyperthermia, or heat stroke, according to the news release. The deaths were the result of a child being left in a car or climbing into a vehicle and becoming trapped.
“A child should never be left in a vehicle alone,” Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier said. “Summer increases danger as temperatures rise and established routines change. Simple precautions can prevent a deadly accident.”
Another potential summer time risk is the allure of a swimming pool or natural body of water.
Child and Family Services has investigated 57 accidental deaths caused by drowning in an outdoor body of water since 2000, the news release said. On average, four Louisiana children die each year in pools, lakes, rivers, canals, ponds and ditches.
Sonnier said, “Parental supervision is a crucial precaution to ensure a child’s safety while swimming.”
Summer heat can rapidly elevate the temperature in an automobile to dangerous or even fatal levels. A child’s body temperature can rise five times faster than that of an adult and a car’s interior temperature can increase 10 degrees in just 10 minutes, even with the windows cracked two inches, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Safety tips from the news release to prevent hyperthermia include:
—Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open and you plan to return quickly.
—Make a habit of looking in the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
—If someone other than yourself is dropping your child off for the day, call the childcare provider to make sure the drop went according to plan.
—Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up by a certain time each day.
Children occasionally climb into vehicles and become trapped. To prevent this, do not let children play in an unattended vehicle and teach them that a vehicle is not a play area, Sonnier said. Additionally, always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children’s reach. If a child is missing, check vehicles first, including trunks.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 immediately. Warning signs include red, hot and moist or dry skin, no sweating, nausea or acting strangely.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and is the third leading cause of death among children older than 4.
Safe Kids Worldwide offers the following swimming safety tips:
—Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water.
—When there are several adults present and children are swimming, prevent lapses in supervision by establishing “shifts” that designate a single adult who will watch the children in the water for a certain period of time.
—Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with a partner.
—Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
—Look, don’t just listen. Many times, a person in drowning distress is quiet under the water, not thrashing at the top.
—Remove all toys from the pool area when it’s not in use to keep children from going near the area.