RALEIGH – A 2-year old boy in Hoke county died last July after being left in a hot, parked car in his own driveway. When his parents found Zachery, he was immediately taken to the hospital, where he died of heat stroke and dehydration. Both parents were later charged with involuntary manslaughter and child neglect. It’s a sad story, but not an isolated case. In fact, just days ago a six-month old boy in Iredell county died after being left in the car all day. Every year in North Carolina children lose their lives as a result of unwitting parents leaving them in hot cars.

Though it may not seem that hot outside to you, children left alone in a parked car on a hot day can quickly meet their death. During the summer months, the temperature inside a parked car can reach over 120 degrees in as little as 10 minutes. Direct sunlight and a dark colored car can speed the process. Heath exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees, and heat stroke may occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees.

When in a hot car, a child loses body fluids and salts through perspiration, causing heat exhaustion. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which prohibits the body from perspiring. Body temperature then rises, causing sever damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys, and even death.

“Think of your parked car as an oven,” says Jennifer Tolle, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and co-chair of the NC Child Fatality Task Force. "Your car becomes like an oven in a matter of minutes on a hot summer day. You should no more leave your child in the car, even with the windows rolled down, than you should allow your child to sit in the oven in your home.”

Several North Carolina parents currently face child abuse charges for leaving children in hot cars. It is not a good idea to leave a child under the age of 10 in a car alone, regardless of the temperature outside. Hazards include a stranger abducting the child and the child releasing the break or wandering away from the vehicle. Every year in North Carolina serious injuries or death result when children are left along in the car.

To keep your kids safe, follow these tips:

1. Always keep your car doors locked even when the car is in the garage. Children may play in the car and can become trapped when they’re not strong enough to open the doors.

2. Check the temperature of child safety seats and seat belts before buckling kids up. The metal can become hot enough to cause burns.

3. Call 911 immediately if you find a child left alone in a parked car or your child becomes locked in your car. The child’s life may depend upon it.

4. Ensure that children drink plenty of fluids.

5. Avoid being in the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Have children wear sunscreen on all exposed areas of the body every day. Have children wear a hat and sunglasses.

For more information about how to keep your child safe in hot weather, contact your family doctor. If you are concerned about a child, would like to get involved in child abuse prevention in your community or need free parenting information, call 1-800-354-KIDS.

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