As temperatures rise this summer, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is urging the public to take extra safety precautions to avoid some common heat-related dangers, especially for vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.
“Texas summers heat up quickly. Children are more susceptible than adults to many things, including extreme temperatures,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “We are urging Texans to take every measure possible to have a safe season. Heat-related injuries and deaths are often preventable, and we all need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves and others.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in just 10 minutes the temperature inside a vehicle can increase by 20 degrees. Children are more vulnerable to heatstroke, because their body temperatures rise three to five times faster than adults’. Cracking or rolling down a window makes little difference in reducing the rising temperature in a vehicle. You should never leave a child alone in a vehicle, no matter the circumstance.
DPS offers the following tips to prevent vehicular heatstroke, and for staying safe in the heat:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, and always check the back seat or cargo areas before walking away.
- Establish reminders to help ensure you remove children from the vehicle. This could be leaving your bag, lunch or cell phone in the back seat with the child’s car seat.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately and emergency personnel will provide guidance.
- Teach the children in your life not to play in vehicles, and make sure to place keys out-of-reach when not in use.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty; you may not realize you’re dehydrated until it’s too late. Make sure children stay hydrated, too.
- Avoid alcohol and beverages high in caffeine or sugar during prolonged periods outdoors.
- Pay attention to your body. Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can develop quickly. Know the warning signs and seek medical attention if necessary.
- Check on others, especially the elderly, sick, very young and those without air conditioners.
- Don’t forget about pets and pet safety. Animals are susceptible to heat-related injuries or death. Pets can die in a hot vehicle in just 15 minutes.
- Monitor local weather updates and stay aware of upcoming changes.
- Limit exposure to the sun. If you can, avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day.
- Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat are recommended while spending time outdoors.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburns can affect the body’s ability to cool down.
- Be careful when cooking outdoors, building campfires or driving off-road to avoid igniting dry vegetation. Also, stay aware of burn bans in your area, and always abide by restrictions on outside burning.
So far in 2021, two children in the U.S. have died from heat-related deaths, according to noheatstroke.org. In 2020, 24 children died. Texas has the most pediatric vehicle deaths in the country from 1998 to 2020, with 132.
Additional information on preventing heatstroke in vehicles can be found by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, Ready.gov, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the National Weather Service also have helpful tips on staying safe in the heat.