The tragic death of a 9-month-old boy in Wilkes County on May 2 is being cited in a statewide campaign intended to raise awareness of the risks of leaving small children in motor vehicles on hot days.
“Baby, It’s Hot Inside” was launched earlier this month by Safe Kids North Carolina and N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
Last week in public appearances, Causey said the infant in Wilkes died of heatstroke as a result of his mother leaving him in the backseat of a car. The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office charged the mother with murder and felony child abuse.
Chief Deputy David Carson said the mother, from Winston-Salem, knowingly left the child in an unattended parked car for over five hours May 2 while she worked at the Eckerd Connects program in Boomer. The infant was lifeless and not breathing when the mother brought him to Wilkes Medical Center, where efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
High temperatures were in the low 80s in Wilkes on May 2.
An American Academy of Pediatrics study found that whether the windows are closed or open, a car’s interior temperature can rise about 40 degrees within one hour. This is true even when the exterior temperature is in the low 70s. It gets hotter faster in smaller vehicles.
The journal, “Scientific,” reported that a study done last year found that a hypothetical 2-year-old boy in a car seat in a parked car met the criteria for heatstroke in one hour in the sun and two hours in the shade.
The time it takes for heatstroke to occur depends on a person’s age, weight and health condition, but children suffer heatstroke sooner than most adults.
Children, the elderly and pregnant females are at higher risk for heatstroke because their bodies don’t cool as well as adults with no health problems. Dogs and cats are even more vulnerable to heat because they sweat very little, even though they do pant to cool off.
Heatstroke generally occurs when a person’s core temperature rises above 104 degrees for an extended period. The body works hard and sweats to help it stay at 98.6 degrees. Dehydration or sweltering humidity can cause this cooling system to stop functioning and push body temperatures up to dangerous levels (at least 104 degrees) within 10 or 15 minutes.
Lack of sweating is an indicator of heatstroke. When hot weather is the cause of heatstroke, the skin typically feels hot and dry to the touch. The skin may be dry or slightly moist if heatstroke is caused by strenuous exercise.
Other symptoms of heatstroke include nausea and vomiting, flushed (red) skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache and altered mental behavior such as confusion, agitation and slurred speech.
If untreated, heatstroke can quickly damage organs and muscles. The damage and likelihood of death worsens the longer treatment is delayed.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is one of the best ways to avoid heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Dark-colored urine is a sign that you need to drink more water.
Avoid drinks with caffeine (like tea, coffee and soda) or alcohol.
And again, don’t leave a child in a motor vehicle when it’s hot outside. Even if the windows are open, the heat can be extremely dangerous.