Heat endangers children left in cars

No one but the wicked witch of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale would intentionally put children into a hot oven.

But parents who leave children in searing-hot vehicles during the hot summer months are placing their children in just as much risk.

"Vehicles become extremely hot, even with the windows slightly down," said Tracie McKnight, a spokeswoman for the Kingman Police Department.

When the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit, even with a window cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 140 degrees in 40 minutes, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

The National Weather Service predicts a summer that will be warmer than usual.

For Kingman that means temperatures in the 100s.

Within the last month high temperatures have been responsible for three known deaths of children, including 4-year-old Martin Medina in Phoenix; a 9-month-old boy in York County, Va.; and a 13-month-old boy in Newton, N.

J., who died after he was left in a car seat for more than two hours.

The temperature outside at the time was only 63 degrees.

"Children become very dehydrated when they are in the sun or out playing.

Babies especially have no way to cool themselves off," said Paula McNichols, a registered nurse and a member of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.

"Children and babies depend on adults to keep them safe.

That includes keeping them safe from the heat.

Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle, or any place else, not even for a few minutes," she said.

McNichols added that its a good idea to always keep water bottles for drinking and squirt bottles to keep cool during the summer months.

"Extreme heat affect infants and small children more than adults," said Dr.

Kenneth Jackson, a family practice physician at Cerbat Medical Center in Kingman.

"When temperatures get up to 105, the body tries to do its best to sweat.

A child's capillaries dilate and the child loses fluids through sweating.

That's how the body gets rid of heat," Jackson said.

"But losing water when sweating causes the heart to pump harder."

He said this can lead to heat exhaustion and the early throes of a stroke.

Symptoms include seizures, vomiting and a change in mental stability.

The child also becomes lethargic.

"Heat stroke can lead to brain damage, heart failure, small organ failure or death," Jackson said.

"It takes a surprisingly short amount of time for damage to occur.

The younger and smaller the child is, the more vulnerable."

Jackson added that the ideal way to cool someone who has suffered from the heat is to place the person in a warm mist with a fan blowing, which isn't always practical.

"Packing them in ice, or immersing them in an ice-water bath is the next best thing to do," he said.

Last summer 30 children died from heat stroke in vehicles parked in the heat, according to the SAFE KIDS Campaign.

SAFE KIDS warns parents to be especially vigilant about children's safety on days when temperatures are 80 degrees or higher.

They offer the following precautions:

€ Keep cars locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.

€ Teach children not to play in or around cars.

€ If your child gets locked inside a car, get him out and dial 911 immediately.

€ Always make sure all children passengers have left the car.

SAFE KIDS also cautions parents to watch children around car trunks, which could become death traps within a matter of minutes.

KIDS 'N CARS, an advocacy group, is seeking legislation in every state that would make it a crime to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

"Cars are not baby sitters," the group's co-founder, Janette Fennell, told The Associated Press recently.

Fennell said only 11 states have laws that make leaving a child alone in a car a crime.

McKnight said Arizona has several statutes that apply to children left alone in vehicles.

"There is a endangerment statute stating that it is illegal to recklessly endanger another person with substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury.

It is a class 6 felony," she said.