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Thursday, March 23, 2023
HomeHealthKidsKeep the family safe in the heat this summer

Keep the family safe in the heat this summer

Maryland child left in hot car

Parents should take precaution to check the back seat before getting out of the car to make sure they don’t leave a child in a hot car, following the death of a 16 month old in Baltimore County last week.

So far in 2013 there have been at least nineteen deaths of children unattended in vehicles; 10 of which have been confirmed as heatstroke and nine which, based upon the known circumstances, are most likely heatstroke, according to the study “Heathstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles,” by Jan Null of the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. Children that have died from vehicular heatstroke in the United States (1998-2012) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years of age. More than half of the deaths are children under 2 years of age, according to the study.

Heatstroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater then 105 degrees. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma. Onset of heatstroke can be rapid: a person can go from feeling apparently well to seriously ill within minutes. Treatment of heatstroke involves the rapid lowering of body temperature, using a cool bath or wet towels. A heatstroke victim should be kept in a cool area; emergency medical care should be obtained by dialing 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heatstroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual. Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, or headache. Victims may also vomit or faint. Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area. Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.

Hot weather tips


  • Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and fruit juice, to prevent dehydration. Alcohol can impair the body’s sweat mechanism, as can some common medications, such as antihistamines and diuretics.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes.
  • Avoid direct sunlight by staying in the shade and wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Stay in air-conditioned areas when possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, consider a visit to a shopping mall or public library or stay with family or friends who have air conditioning. Contact your local health department to see if there are cooling shelters open in your area.
  • NEVER leave pets or children in a car, even with the windows cracked.
  • Check on elderly relatives or neighbors at least daily, and make sure they have a cool environment to live in during extreme heat.
  • Take it easy when outdoors. Athletes and those who work outdoors should take short breaks when feeling fatigued. Schedule physical activity during the morning or evening when it is cooler.

In 2012, there were 46 confirmed heat-related deaths from May through September in Maryland. In 2011, there were 34 confirmed heat-related deaths, in 2010, there were 32; in 2009, six heat related deaths; and in 2008, there were 17 deaths.

For more tips and reports on heat, visit the DHMH website on extreme heat.

For information on other summer illnesses see our story on common summer ailments.


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