A heartbreaking incident in Portugal is drawing attention to the dangers of pediatric vehicular heatstroke. On September 12th, a 10-month-old baby girl died after being left in a locked car for over 7 hours in Almada. The outside temperature was approximately 26°C (79°F), meaning the internal temperature likely reached upwards of 50°C (122°F).

The infant’s father, a university lecturer, drove to work as usual but tragically forgot to drop his daughter off at daycare first. It wasn’t until late afternoon when he returned to his car that he discovered the unresponsive child still strapped in her carseat. Despite resuscitation efforts by emergency responders, the baby could not be revived.

This case is still under investigation, but authorities believe the father simply forgot the child was in the vehicle. The parents are being offered psychological support to cope with this devastating loss.

A Common Yet Preventable Tragedy

Unfortunately, vehicular heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash-related fatalities among children. On average, 39 children under the age of 15 die each year in the United States from heatstroke after being left in hot cars.

Experts say this can happen to anyone as a result of stress, change in routine, lack of sleep, or other distractions. However, there are steps parents and caregivers can take to avoid this tragedy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating reminders, keeping cars locked when not in use, and never letting children play unattended in vehicles. It’s also vital to recognize early signs of heatstroke, which include red, hot, and moist or dry skin, along with a rapid pulse. A child’s health can deteriorate quickly in a hot car, so rapid cooling and medical treatment are essential.

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Promoting Awareness to Save Lives

As we enter the late summer and early fall, temperatures are still high in many areas. It’s important for parents to remain vigilant and have a plan to keep kids safe. Community initiatives like National Heatstroke Prevention Day also help spread awareness.

While no amount of precaution can guarantee zero accidents, following safety guidelines and speaking up if you see a child alone in a vehicle can help avoid preventable deaths. It takes a community-wide effort to protect children.

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