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Local Imperial County agencies warn parents and caregivers on the dangers of heatstroke

Parents and caregivers are urged to look before they lock their cars to avoid leaving children in hot vehicles - CBS 13 on your side's Vanessa Gongora reports.

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - The Imperial County Public Health Department's (ICPHD) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency is warning local residents about the dangers of heatstroke, especially since summer is right around the corner and temperatures are only rising.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heatstroke is the number one killer of children, outside of car crashes.

Robert Gonzalez, Public Information Officer for the El Centro Fire Department, says the tragic part is that most if not all of these deaths are preventable.

"With the proper precautions, with the proper habits, these deaths can be prevented," Gonzalez says.

The El Centro Fire Department (ECFD) and California Highway Patrol (CHP) joined with ICPHD EMS to talk about the campaign "Where's Baby? Look before you lock" to attempt to reduce these deaths by reminding parents about the effects of heatstroke and provide prevention tips for parents and caregivers of small children.

According to the ECPD, children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke in a hot vehicle especially when they are too young to communicate. Children's body temperature can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult.

"Especially an infant so they can't always tell you that they're feeling sick or hot and a three year old who's feeling something they've never felt before, they can't always communicate that clearly to their parents. So you might not know from what they say, you have to look how they look," Gonzalez explained.

He said to be aware of the indications of heatstroke.

"Some of the early signs you'll see their skin get hot, they'll get sweaty, they'll start to act a little confused, start to be nauseous," Gonzalez said. "Some of the later signs, they can start vomiting, lose consciousness and they'll actually stop sweating because they've lost the fluid in their body."

The ICPHD says if a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose, never an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Gonzalez says this is particularly important to him because as a father, first responder, and has a wife who runs a day care, child safety is a big topic.

He says it's a common call paramedics get in Imperial County, especially in the summer and happens quite often.

"It's important to remember that whatever the temperature is outside, internal temperature of a vehicle is going to be hotter. Temperatures in the 70's, inside the vehicle the temperature can be an excess of 100 degrees," Gonzalez said. "So Imperial Valley temperature 115-120, we can only imagine what the inside temperature of that vehicle is going to be and how it's going to effect a small child."

Mayra Ibarra, Injury Prevention Coordinator for ICPHD, provided tips for parents and caregivers to help prevent children being left in a car.

"Make sure you never leave your kid unattended in a vehicle, even if the vehicle is on with the air conditioner on, you need to make sure your child is not there. You need to make sure your car is completely off, the keys are away from your child and away from the vehicle so your child can't get back into the vehicle," says Ibarra. "And make sure you look back before you get off your car to make sure your child is not there."

Luitenant Ernesto Ruedas suggests making a routine with your children, whether it be singing with them or to them in the car to remember they are there. Even putting a teddy bear or something of your child's as a reminder in the front seat can help.

According to (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Marketing, in 2021, 23 children lost their lives due to heatstroke from being left in hot vehicles. Three children have already lost their life this year. The average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998 is 38.

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Vanessa Gongora

Vanessa Gongora joined the KYMA team in 2022 and is the anchor/producer for CBS at 4 p.m.

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