Children’s Bodies Heat Up Three Times Faster Than Adults

Published on July 18, 2019, 11:00 pm
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As triple digit temperatures approach, NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Commissioner David A. Hansell today reminded parents to exercise extreme caution to keep children safe. First, parents should “look before you lock” – never leave a child unattended in a car. During summer months, especially, vehicles can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit which could be fatal for small children as their bodies heat up three times faster than an adult’s does, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just this week, an infant tragically died in Virginia after being left in a hot car. With the heat index expected to reach 109 degrees by Saturday, parents should always check the backseat of the car before leaving and locking a vehicle. Even if a child is sleeping and a parent is running a quick errand, they should take the child out of the car to ensure the child is safe.

“Children should never be left in a car unattended, and that’s why we’re reminding all parents to look before you lock,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for parents to become distracted and accidentally forget to check the backseat before getting out of the car. As the temperature rises, it’s important for New Yorkers to be mindful of the dangers involved in leaving a child in a hot car, to prevent future tragedies.

“Heat illness occurs when the body cannot cool down. Children’s body temperatures can rise very quickly, putting them at risk for heat-related illnesses. The most serious forms of heat illness are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises quickly and can rapidly lead to death. Keeping cool can be hard work for the body. This extra stress on the body can also worsen other health conditions such as heart and lung disease.

“Extreme heat kills more New Yorkers than any other extreme weather event and leads to an average of 450 heat-related emergency department visits. Each year, on average, there are about 130 deaths in NYC either directly attributed to extreme heat (heat stroke) or in which heat played a role, worsening chronic conditions like heart disease.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths in children under 15. Infants and children up to four years of age are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC).

Just this week, a 10-month old child in Virginia tragically died after being left in a car outside a grocery store. So far this year, at least 19 children across the country have tragically died in hot cars. Parents should never leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open. To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver. If you see a child left unattended in a parked car, you should notify law enforcement immediately or call 911.

In New York City, most heat-related deaths occur after exposure to heat in homes without air conditioners. Parents can protect their children with these health and safety tips:

  • Keep kids cool and hydrated.
  • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • If possible, stay out of the sun. When in the sun, apply sunscreen to your child (at least SPF 15) and a hat to protect their face and head.
  • Make sure they drinking plenty of fluids. Stay away from really cold drinks or drinks with too much sugar.
  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, keep rooms well-ventilated with open windows and fans.
    • Consider going to a public pool, air-conditioned store, mall, movie theater, or cooling center.
    • Call 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115), or contact 311 online to find out whether a cooling center is open near you.
    • Note: these facilities are managed by agency partners who determine each site’s hours of operation and level(s) of accessibility. For additional information, please contact these facilities directly.
    • Find a cooling center here.
    • Fans work best at night, when they can bring in cooler air from outside.
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