Tragedy in minutes, CHRISTUS aims to prevent hot car deaths

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LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) – Summer is still upon us and with the season, comes the tragedy of hot car deaths. 

As of 2019, five children have died in Texas from vehicle-related heat-strokes.

The most recent death happened in June in Galveston. 

To prevent this from happening, again CHRISTUS Good Shepard Medical Center in Longview held a demonstration to show how hot it can get inside a car during the summer.

The demonstration included a car sitting in a parking lot with the AC running to reach a comfortable temperature.

Then a doll was placed inside and the engine was turned off.

“So after about ten minutes the temperature inside of a car can increase approximately 46 degrees,” said Dr. Tiffany Turner, a pediatrician at CHRISTUS Good Shepard Medical Center in Longview.

A timer was set for ten minutes and when time was up, the car was well above 100 degrees.

For a child, that’s all it takes to cause serious harm, even death.

Dr. Turner said a child’s body heats up three times faster than an adult’s body.

“A child’s body heat can go over 107 degrees at that time and that’s when you’re hitting dangerous levels when a child will get past the point of heat exhaustion to heat stroke where basically you hit a point of no return,” said Dr. Turner.  “The body of an adult, much less a child, is unable to produce sweat and cool down appropriately.”

Since 1998 more than 800 children have died this way. 52 of those deaths happened in 2018, the worst year recorded.

“Every year we have about 38 kids who pass away, unfortunately, in hot cars,” said William Knous, CHRISTUS Health Public Relations manager. “That’s an average of one every nine days.”

But why does this happen so often?

“The biggest thing with parents and when they say they forget their kids is that it’s out of their routine,” said Dr. Turner. “If it takes something to remember your child is in the back whether it’s: putting your cell phone next to their seat, taking a shoe off so there’s something that forces you to get into the back seat and remember that you’ve left your child.”

A common myth to keep the car cool is cracking or rolling down the windows will keep a child safe.

“Because of the way the sun heats the car up, it’s a radiation energy, it’s almost like a greenhouse so your car just absorbs the heat from the sun,” said Dr. Turner. “Tinted windows help, but they don’t do enough.”

It also doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside, the inside of a car can easily heat up well above the outside temperature.

“It doesn’t have to be 120 degrees to be life-threatening,” said Knous. “There have been children who have passed away in cars where the exterior temperature is only 60 degrees.”

One death from this would be too much.

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