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Each year in the U.S., an average of 38 children and hundreds of pets die from hyperthermia (heatstroke) in hot cars. While our initial reaction may be these are cases of blatant cruelty or negligence, the truth is many are due to a tragic error on the part of otherwise loving, competent caregivers. The point? Yes, it's possible this could happen to you.

There are a couple of misconceptions that contribute to these tragic episodes. First, there's the assumption that if it's cool outside, it can't get very hot inside, and this is not accurate. It can be a mere 70 degrees outside and, on a sunny day, a car can reach 100 degrees within 15 minutes. The perception that "cracking the windows" will somehow keep the temperature in a safe range is another dangerous myth -- open windows have little effect on internal car temperatures on a sunny day. Body temperatures for children and pets rise three to five times faster than an adult's, and brain damage or death can occur in a matter of minutes.

It's true that some children and pets are knowingly and negligently left inside hot vehicles. But in most cases, hot car deaths are a result of an adult's disastrous lapse in memory. Working parents are often tired, stressed and running on auto-pilot on their way to and from work or errands. The risk is particularly high when the child is sleeping in the back seat, or when the adult is traveling a path outside his or her normal routine. Experts suggest you can reduce the risk by remembering to A.C.T.:

• A = AVOID -- Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Be sure to keep your car locked when you are not in it, so children don't climb in on their own.

• C = CREATE -- Create a reminder by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, a purse, a shoe or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you are not following your normal routine.

• T = TAKE ACTION -- If you see a child or pet alone in a car, call 911 and stay with the victim. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations, and one call could save a life. If help does not arrive quickly and you note signs of immediate distress such as lethargy, poor coloring or heavy breathing, engage witnesses and do what is necessary to ensure the victim's safety.

In the event you or someone you know experiences signs of heatstroke, remember not to attempt to bring down the temperature too quickly. Don't use ice or ice water. Attempt to bring down the temperature gradually with cool spray or mild air conditioning and dial 911 or proceed immediately to the nearest ER. The emergency room at Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is here for you and your family 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn more about our services, visit NorthwestHealth.com today.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a 73 licensed bed facility with 42 private patient rooms. It is accredited by the state of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Some services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. With more than 40 physicians on the medical staff, Siloam Springs Regional Hospital provides compassionate, customer-focused care. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health, one of the largest health networks in Northwest Arkansas, and through that affiliation is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a select group of independent health systems that work closely with Mayo Clinic to improve the delivery of healthcare and better serve their patients and their communities. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Ave. in Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.

Editorial on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: A.C.T. to prevent heat-related car deaths

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