THE BLOG
07/29/2014 02:20 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2014

National Heatstroke Prevention Day: Safety and Prevention Tips for Parents and Caregivers

As all kids know, summer's a wonderful yet short-lived time for blackberry picking, summer camp, long nights under the stars while catching fireflies and numerous beach trips. With the constant heat it is the ongoing reminder to protect oneself from the sun. Yet, one of the more overlooked dangers of the summer that greatly puts children at risk is that of leaving children in a hot vehicle. Such a danger can be deadly. Already six deaths have occurred during the month of July and already seventeen children have died since the beginning of the year according to SafeKids. To bring awareness to this crucial health issue, Safe Kids Worldwide and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have teamed up to make July 31, 2014, National Heatstroke Prevention Day.

Why Has this Day Become So Important?

Out of all the national health days of the year for children, this is probably one that gets the least attention. One can only hope that by creating National Heatstroke Prevention Day, there'll be more public awareness to the growing danger of leaving a child unattended in a heated vehicle. This problem typically happens when the parent or caregiver runs to the grocery store or makes an errand and in those 15 minutes a lot, unfortunately, can happen.

When a child is left in a heated vehicle it's just a matter of minutes that a child's body rapidly heats up, three to five times faster than adults. This causes heatstroke, high fever, dehydration, seizures, strokes and ultimately, deaths. If parents know the real health dangers in advance, they can prevent an untimely accident or tragedy.

Granted a parent or caregiver may just think, "Nah, this kind of thing won't ever happen to me," (never say never) but for argument's sake, let's put this situation into perspective:

• The temperature inside a vehicle on an average summer day can rise above 120 to 140 degrees leading to the problems described above. The minimum rising temperature is 100. This is enough to kill an infant or child.

• Leaving a child alone in a car can lead to abduction.

Prevention Means Education

When one is educated about safety issues, the likelihood of preventing accidents and tragedies like the recent stories mentioned above are much much lower. Sites like Safekids.org offer invaluable safety and prevention tips. James M. Kessel, an attorney at the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, states, "Education and awareness is the key. We need to make sure parents and caregivers understand the dangers of leaving children in cars to prevent tragedies like those we've heard about on the news recently from happening in the future."

Prevention Means Exercising Awareness

One might associate safety awareness with common sense, but during the heat and long driving tips with children, it's easy for parents and caregivers to get sidetracked. That's why it's important to think two or three steps ahead not just during the summer months but at all times when driving with children. To ensure that children are accounted for at all times during a vehicle, Kessel from the law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen states, "I have two small boys and while they're normally noisy enough to make it impossible for me to forget that they're riding in the back seat, I always leave something I will need at my destination, such as files or even a drink between their car seats or on the floor behind my seat. That way even if they fall asleep I have a reason to check."

When done habitually, the idea of checking the backseats as a way to account for one's children is lifelong prevention. There are other prevention tips and strategies that should be exercised at all stages of a child's development.

Here are a few cases:

• In 1998, a 9-month-old died after being left in a sweltering mini-van for two hours. The child, who was forgotten, was thought by the "other" that he was safe at home.
Prevention strategy #1: Always account for each of your children by knowing where they are and who's looking out for them at all times.

• In that same year, a 34-month-old toddler was found dead inside a heated family station wagon.
Prevention strategy #2: Don't assume a toddler cannot open doors or maneuver his/her way around the house and outside. Numerous cases of falling and hurt children have been reported all across the country.

Although children are the most susceptible to heatstroke, adults and pets have also been left in hot vehicles leaving them helpless against the possibilities of death. It's time to bring awareness to National Heatstroke Prevention Day and prevent additional tragedies from happening in the future.