The press event at the Houston TranStar center was a partnership between the NWS, Texas Children’s Hospital and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to educate people on the dangers of heatstroke for children in cars.
According to NHTSA Region 6 Administrator Maggi Gunnels, five children have died of heatstroke nationwide this year, including one Houston boy on June 20.
“We really have to be vigilant of these dangers,” Gunnels said. “It [isn’t just] Texas but every state that faces the possibility of death in hot cars. Always remember to look before you lock.”
According to the NHTSA website, 910 children have died of vehicular heatstroke since 1998, and 54% of deaths involve children under two years old. The record year for fatalities was 2018 with 54, according to the national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, although fatalities declined to 23 in 2021.
Gunnels and Anthony Arredondo, a pediatric emergency physician at Texas Children’s, all advised caretakers to lock cars when not in use to prevent children from getting in. Arredondo also noted additional dangers for younger children.
“Young infants, especially those who have been in the sun, may not be able to communicate their pain and exhaustion,” Arredondo said. “With heat stroke, there’s a change in mental status; they can be confused in addition to other physical symptoms.”
Evans said increasing temperatures could lead to complacency, especially in a hot climate, such as in Houston.
“People already expect heat, so when it is 10 degrees hotter than usual they might not appreciate the increased risk,” Evans said. “We want people to not only be aware of the heat but also safe and fair in their assessment of themselves.”
The event included a demonstration led by Kristen Beckworth, Texas Children's manager for childhood injury prevention. Beckworth showed how a parked vehicle’s internal temperature can be 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature, which is harmful for child health. She recommended using a visual cue when traveling with a child, such as leaving a purse that needs to be retrieved near a child in a car seat.
“We’ve been talking about creating reminders, so when you get to your final destination, you leave something in the backseat, so you can grab both your child and your item,” Beckworth said.
Kristen Beckworth of @TexasChildrens leads the demo. "The temp inside a car can jump 20 degrees in a matter of minutes," Beckworth says pic.twitter.com/EqrhDd26Qs
— Jishnu Nair (@jishnews) June 22, 2022
Beckworth told Community Impact Newspaper that Texas Children’s hosts both car seat inspections—where seats are evaluated for safety—as well as information sessions for general heat health outdoors.
Beckworth and Arredondo recommended cars be locked to prevent children from getting in on hot days, to have plenty of water and to take breaks for kids playing outside. For more health safety tips, see Texas Children’s website.