NORTH TEXAS (CBSNewsTexas.com) – The Texas heat can be relentless in the summer months; It can also be dangerous.
Children are one of the most at-risk populations for complications from becoming overheated.
Dr. Clay Yaklin, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s Health says there are two categories of heat illness you need to watch for in children: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“Signs of heat exhaustion include sweatiness and fast heart rate, with complaints of headache, dizziness, and nausea,” Yaklin explains. “Whereas children with heat stroke will have an elevated body temperature with more concerning symptoms like difficulty talking, difficulty walking, difficulty waking up and seizures.”
For the youngest children, especially those who can’t walk or talk yet, you will have to pay closer attention to how they are acting to see concerning symptoms of heat illness.
“Babies are more susceptible to heat related illnesses,” Yaklin explains. “And so parents should be watching for unusual behaviors like fussiness or restlessness, and they may be breathing faster, or may even have vomiting.”
The Texas heat can become dangerous within minutes.
Strollers in the sun
“We’ve cared for a lot of children, especially here in Texas with heat related illnesses,” Yaklin explains. “And they can come from something as innocuous, or as fun, as just walking around the neighborhood with a stroller.”
That is because strollers in the full sun can get extremely hot. And a common way to provide children shade could be causing the stroller to get even hotter.
Covering a stroller or car seat with a light blanket or cover initiates a process known as the greenhouse effect. Where when heat it trapped it causes temperatures to rise rapidly.
We lined up three strollers in the full sun on a day when it was 85 degrees outside. We used a jogging stroller with just a canopy shade, a compact car seat stroller with a light blanket and a car seat stroller with a breathable car seat cover. The interior temperature of the strollers with covers increased to a feels like temperature above 100 degrees after just 15 minutes. After 30 minutes in full sun, the internal temperature of both covered strollers rose to 110 degrees.
Doctors recommend keeping strollers uncovered so that airflow can help keep the child from overheating. Stroller attachments like baby-safe fans can also be a good addition to help children stay cool.
Catching kids before they’re left in a hot car
The greenhouse effect also explains why vehicles heat up so rapidly in the Texas heat.
Matt Zavadsky with MedStar Mobile Healthcare says the temperature in vehicles can rise within minutes to dangerous levels, especially for children.
“When you leave the windows closed or even slightly open it will get to be 125 degrees in a vehicle within half an hour,” Zavadsky said. “Once the kid’s body temperature gets to be about 104, they are going to have significant medical issues and once their body temperature gets to 108, they are going to die.”
So, what do you do if you see a child trapped in a hot car?
Zavadsky says first, always call 911. Then, while on the phone with emergency crews, follow their instructions and start to locate the window furthest from the child that could be broken.
He says the best place to try and break a window if at one of the bottom corners.
“You’re going to hit right in the corner and literally the window is going to shatter and all the glass — because of it being safety glass — will fall right down into the floor,” Zavadsky explained. “Now, you’ve got a clear sight of the child and we can go in at the door lock, open the door, whatever it takes to now be able to go around and get the kid out of the car seat.”
But a simple step with a brightly colored object, like a stuffed animal, could go a long way to preventing a child from ever being left in a vehicle.
Zavadsky shows an example using a stuffed animal like a bright orange Tigger from Winnie the Poo to serve as a reminder.
“Normally, Tigger is going to be in the car seat. But if you’re going to put baby in the car seat, you are going to take Tigger out, and you’re going to put him in the front seat, so he stands out,” Zavadsky demonstrated. “So then, when you go to take off your seatbelt, you will look in the passenger seat and see Tigger because he is bright orange… and that will be the quick reminder you need to check the backseat.”
Texas leads the nation in hot car deaths.
We are only halfway through summer and MedStar, which services Fort Worth and some surrounding cities, has already responded to five children locked in hot cars.
That is more than they responded to the entire summer last year.
Thankfully, all five children were rescued quickly and survived.