Risk takes no vacation


With summer’s arrival, the accidental death rate of children spikes. More than 2000 children die each summer from preventable injuries.


With summer’s arrival, the accidental death rate of children spikes. More than 2000 children die each summer from preventable injuries.1

In addition to seasonal risks posed by insects, sunburn, etc, are the often fatal hazards: car accidents, drowning, head injuries, poisoning, falls, and, yes, firearms. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for kids aged 14 years and younger.2

From Null J.4

All these threats underscore the critical inclusion of child safety education at all pediatric visits-as jammed as your well-child visit already is. 

In this issue, we focus on children’s car-related hyperthermia deaths, which have surged. An average of 33 children died each year from heat stroke after being left alone in vehicles from 1998 to 2004.3 Last year was one of the worst years on record with 44 fatalities. Many more nonfatal instances of “forgotten baby syndrome” have led to permanent brain injury and lifelong disability. This year’s tally is already at 7 deaths just days after Memorial Day.4 A prime occasion for such tragedies to occur is when family routines change, such as at the end of the school year.

Over 50% of the fatalities from vehicular heat stroke from 1998 to 2013 were children younger than 2. For sleep-deprived new parents especially, emphasizing the dangers of leaving kids in the car can piggyback on your inquiries about their use of car seats. The #1 situation in which vehicular heat stroke occurs is the child forgotten rather than dropped off at daycare.5

Advise caregivers to establish an absence verification plan with their childcare provider, and to create cues to remind them when their child is in the car, such as placing a purse or cell phone in the back seat. Your warning to parents may make many more summers possible for a child.



1. Minino AM, et al; Division of Vital Statistics. Death: final data for 2004. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2007;55(19):1-119.

2. Morton S, et al. Safe Kids U.S. Summer Safety Ranking Report. Washington, DC: Safe Kids Worldwide; May 2007.

3. McLaren C, et al. Heat stress from enclosed vehicles: moderate ambient temperatures cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles. Pediatrics. 2005;116(1):e109-e112.

4. Null J. Heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles. Dept. of Earth & Climate Sciences, San Francisco State University web site. http://ggweather.com/heat/. Accessed May 30, 2014.

5. “Forgotten backseat baby” syndrome: an unimaginable danger. Pediatric Safety web site. http://www.pediatricsafety.net/2014/05/forgotten-syndrome-unimaginable/#sthash.QOkNAFpO.pdf. Accessed May 30, 2014.


Ms McNulty is Content Channel Director at Contemporary Pediatrics.

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