Heat stroke warning campaign from National Weather Service of Houston Galveston

- Every summer we hear reminders of how dangerous it is to leave a child in the car on a hot day, and yet every summer tragedies happen.

“Even though we are Houstonians and we are used to living in this neck of the woods, sometimes we don’t realize how hot it really is,” says Nikki Hathaway, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service of Houston Galveston (NWS).

NWS has launched a Look Before You Lock campaign this week across Texas in preparation for the hottest time of year.

“The sixth through the fifteenth [of August] are the warmest climatological days for the state of Texas in the Southeast region, so the warmest days are still to come,” warns Hathaway, “so the awareness needs to be on high alert now.”

This past June, a Houston father discovered his 7-month-old infant unresponsive in his vehicle at the end of the day. He says he forgot to drop the child at day care before going to work. No criminal charges were filed. Many cases of heat-related deaths in cars are matters of mistakes made by parents or caretakers.

107 children have died from heat stroke in a vehicle across Texas since 1998. Nationally, that figure is closer to 800 for the same period of time.

“Just this year alone we’ve had 29 deaths across this nation,” says Hathaway.

In Washington, the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act – known as the HOT CARS act of 2017 – has been introduced. It would require all new vehicles to be equipped with audio and visual alerts that someone is in the backseat whenever a vehicle is turned off.

Until such a requirement becomes reality, Hathaway reminds parents to create their own system for remembering a child is onboard. She suggests leaving a cell phone or bag in the back, forcing you to check before you leave the vehicle.

Of course, cars aren’t the only places where heat stroke can occur.

“It’s not just the temperatures we worry about. When the humidity gets up, the heat index’s get super high. So, that’s how things are different along the coast,” explains Hathaway.

Hathaway says heat stroke symptoms include fever, exhaustion, dizziness, redness of the skin, weakness and nausea. If you feel these while outside, Hathaway says it’s important to drink water and get to a cold room or shower as quickly as possible.

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