How can parents keep their children safe this summer and prevent death from heatstroke as the temperatures rise?

Parents can reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT, according to Kashara Bell, Wharton County Extension Agent for family and consumer services.

“In all states there is a high number of deaths that is caused by leaving a child unattended in a car,” Bell said. “On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. In more than half of these deaths, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car.”

A car can heat up 19 degrees in just 10 minutes, and cracking a window doesn’t help.

“Young children are particularly at risk, as their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s,” Bell said.

In 2018, five children died in a hot car in Texas, three of which were in the Houston area. Between 1990 and 2018, Texas led the country in the number of children who died after being left behind in hot vehicles with 125 deaths in that time followed by Florida and California.

ACT stands for Avoid, Create and Take action.

Below are tips to reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke:

• Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving a child in the car alone with or without the air condition on.

• Create reminders. Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. Or place and secure your phone, briefcase or purse in the backseat when traveling with your child.

• Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations.

Not only can leaving your young child in a hot car be dangerous, but in Texas it is illegal to leave a child under the age of 7 in a vehicle without the presence of a person who is 14 years or older.

The crime is considered a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. An individual may be charged with this crime even if the child is not injured and the weather is not particularly hot. It is also an act of neglectful supervision that Child Protective Services will investigate.

If such an act results in injuries to the child, the alleged offender can face other more serious charges such as abandoning or endangering a child.

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