07/17/12 Temperatures have lowered slightly, but State health officials want to remind Hoosiers that even with cooler temperatures, heat can still be dangerous, even deadly.

Heat kills more people than tornadoes, hurricanes and floods combined, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is the number one cause of weather-related fatalities, and in Indiana, from 2005 to 2009, 16 people died from heat.

Children are especially susceptible to the heat and every year, approximately 38 children die nationwide as a result of being left alone in parked vehicles. Children’s body temperatures rise faster than adults, making them more vulnerable to heat stroke.  Heat stroke doesn’t just happen in the summer, it can easily happen in the fall and spring as well. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees in just 10 minutes, and it will continue to get hotter over time.

“Children should never be left in a parked vehicle alone, even for a moment,” said Joan Duwve, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at the Indiana State Department of Health. “The temperature inside a parked vehicle rises very quickly to dangerous levels, even if the windows are open.”

If you see a child alone in a parked vehicle, call 911 immediately. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency, and can cause seizures, permanent brain injury, and death. If the windows are open or doors unlocked, remove the child from the vehicle and wait with the child until emergency responders arrive.

About half of vehicle-related heat fatality deaths in children occur because caregivers forgot the child was in the vehicle.  Another 30 percent occurred when children were playing in unattended vehicles.

Some simple steps can help you keep the children you care for safe:

  • Never      leave a child alone in a car even with the windows down – not even for a      minute.
  • Put      your purse, briefcase or cell phone on the floor of the back seat.       This will help remind you to look in the back seat before leaving the car.
  • Lock      car doors when the vehicle is parked, and keep your keys out of reach of      young children.
  • Teach      your children not to play in or around cars.
  • If      your child is missing, check the inside of your car and your trunk      first.

The elderly are also extremely susceptible to the heat.  People aged 65 years or older are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Certain medications may make the elderly more sensitive to heat, and more likely to become dehydrated.  Elderly people may also be more likely to live in a home without air conditioning, or turn the air conditioning off to save money.

Check on home-bound and elderly family members and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool and hydrated and not exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

For more information about protecting yourself during extreme temperatures, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety” at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp.

To visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website, go to www.StateHealth.in.gov.