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Hot weather deadly for a child in a parked car

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Keeping children safe is a responsibility we all share

After a rather harsh winter by Southwest Georgia standards, the region has soared into summerlike temperatures in the past few weeks. Already reaching into the 90s, the hot weather and extra hours of daylight are a perfect combination for getting outdoors and getting active.

The more activity the better. In America’s seemingly unending battle with the bulge, moving around and getting some fresh air and exercise are key components to living a healthier life.

But those high temperatures also bring with them risks, particularly for children who aren’t closely supervised when they’re outside. The tragic death of a 2-year-old girl Monday in DeKalb County is a reminder of that.

According to reports, the toddler and her twin sister were with their mother outside when the woman asked a family member to watch the girl while she took her sister inside to change her diaper. An hour later, the adults realized the sister who had remained outside was missing.

The little girl was found inside a car, one that police investigators believe had a door that had been left open. The 2-year-old was able to get inside and close the door but couldn’t get back out. She wasn’t breathing when police and firefighters were called to the location. CPR was administered, and she was rushed to a children’s hospital.

She didn’t survive.

According to statistics from Kidsandcars.org, a website that focuses on child safety with vehicles, the toddler who died Monday in DeKalb County was the fourth this year in the United States who died from heat stroke inside a car. Last year, the organization said, that caused the death of 44 children in the United States.

While the reported numbers are believed to be low compared to actual incidents, Kidsandcars.org says that 647 children 14 years old and younger died from heat illness in a car from 1991 until 2012, making that the No. 2 vehicular cause of death for children behind back-overs, which numbered 1,126 for that period. The organization also notes that 87 percent of reported child heat stroke victims in vehicles are 3 years old or younger.

The fact is, a young child’s body temperature can spike much more quickly than an adult’s. Body temperatures can reach 106 degrees in heat stroke victims, and it can happen to a young child in less than 15 minutes.

With increased activity comes a need for increased alertness to keep this sort of thing from happening.

In Southwest Georgia, it is simply not safe to leave a child — or anyone else — in a vehicle while you “run inside” a store or the house for a few moments, regardless of whether you leave the windows open a bit. And that goes for pets, too. If you see a child, elderly person (another high-risk group) or pet that has been left in that situation this summer, we would urge you to immediately contact authorities and let them know.

Children — especially the youngest who are most susceptible to heat — depend on adults to watch out for them, care for them and keep them safe. It is a big responsibility and not one that can be shirked by anyone.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board