Pediatric vehicular heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related death for children in the United States, it has caused 906 deaths in children 14 and younger since 1998.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office has teamed with the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration to remind parents and guardians about the dangers of pediatric vehicular heatstroke, and that it could to anyone.

The ACSO and NHTSA stress to never leave a child unattended in a car.

In 2021, there were 23 preventable deaths of children in vehicles. In 2020, there were 25 deaths. These numbers were down from 53 deaths per year in 2018 and 2019. Families staying home during 2020 and 2021 may have contributed to this decline.

“On average last year, two children per month died from heatstroke after climbing into or being left or forgotten in a vehicle. It’s so important to tell children not to play in or around a car. As adults, we’re responsible for keeping vehicles locked and keys out of reach,” Athens County Sheriff, Rodney Smith said through a release. “Parents and caregivers: never leave children in the car. Whether the car’s running or not—even if the windows are cracked—it’s a dangerous choice that can quickly lead to disaster. No parent or caregiver thinks they could forget their child in the car, but it happens. So instead of thinking it can’t happen to you, Look Before You Lock to make sure it never does.”

The “I forgot” situation accounts for about half of all deaths of children caused heatstroke. In half of these occurrences the child was being taken to either childcare or preschool. The children are usually younger than one—possibly asleep or just quiet in the back seat. A change in routine is also a common factor in many of these preventable tragedies.

The children are usually younger than one—possibly asleep or just quiet in the back seat. A change in routine is also a common factor in many of these preventable tragedies.

The Athens County Sheriff’s Office urges all parents and caregivers to do these three things to help prevent child heatstroke:

• Make it a habit to look in the back seat every time you exit the car.

• Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, even for a short time or with the windows cracked.

• Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.

If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle:

• Make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.

• If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system. If there is someone with you, one person should actively search for the parent while the other waits at the car.

• If the child is not responsive or appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child — even if that means breaking a window. Many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.

Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include red, hot, and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion; or acting strangely. If a child exhibits any of these symptoms. especially after being in hot car, quickly spay the child with cold water or a garden hose.

It is important to never put a heatstroke victim in an ice bath. Call 9-1-1 or local emergency number immediately.

“More than half (53 percent) of all vehicle-related heatstroke deaths in children are caused by a child being accidentally left in the car, and 26 percent are from a child getting into a hot car unsupervised,” Smith said through a release. “There is a simple way to put an end to these avoidable deaths: please Look Before You Lock.”

For more information on vehicular heatstroke, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/heatstroke.

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