NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In 2018, there were 52 deaths of children who died from heatstroke while left unattended in vehicles in states across the country - up from 43 the year before.

There are already 24 reported deaths across the U.S. in 2019, with several months of hot temperatures still to come.

In response to this serious public health and safety issue, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick’s Level I Trauma Center Injury Prevention Program is seeking to raise awareness and educate the public about this potential and preventable danger, which has dominated headlines recently following the tragic death of twin 1-year-olds who were accidentally left unattended in a car in New York. In that case, the twins’ father thought he had dropped them off at daycare before going to work.

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According to Diana Starace, Coordinator for the Injury Prevention Program at RWJUH’s Level I Trauma Center and Safe Kids Middlesex County, many people are shocked to learn how hot inside the car can actually get. On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside of a car can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and keep getting hotter with each passing minute. And cracking the window doesn’t help.

Heatstroke sets in when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than adult’s, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down, and when that temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

“We don’t want to see this happen to any family,” said Starace. “That’s why we’re asking everyone to help protect kids from this very preventable tragedy by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute.”

According to the National Weather Service, the temperature was expected to reach 90 degrees today in New Brunswick. There is a 30% chance of precipitation.

The city issued an advisory that three cooling centers are available for residents.

The New Brunswick Free Public Library at 60 Livingston Ave. will be open until 9 p.m.

The New Brunswick Senior Citizen Resource Centerat 81 Huntington St. will be open until 4 p.m.

Elijah’s Promise at 18 Neilson St. will be open until 7 p.m.

Anyone without adequate relief from the heat is welcome.

RWJUH and Safe Kids remind the public that children should not be left alone in a car at any age. Cars should be locked and the keys stored out of sight and out of reach of children.

Starace adds, “Vehicular heatstroke is largely misunderstood by the general public. Many parents are misinformed and would like to believe that they could never “forget” their child in a vehicle. The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think leaving a child alone in a vehicle could never happen to them or their family. In more than 55 percent of these cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle. In most situations this happens to the most loving, caring and protective parents. It has happened to a teacher, dentist, social worker, police officer, nurse, clergyman, soldier, and even a rocket scientist. It can happen to anyone.”

Individuals can reduce the number of deaths and near misses by remembering to ACT:

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own. 

C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.

T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Following is a Q and A provided by Safe Kids Middlesex and Safe Kids USA with more information on this important topic:

For a Q and A on this topic provided by Safe Kids Middlesex County and Safe Kids USA, please visit: https://www.rwjbh.org/blog/2019/august/safe-kids-middlesex-county-and-robert-wood-johns/