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Child safety advocates: Vehicles can be death traps

Heat-related deaths of children still a concern

SAN ANTONIO - Safety advocates chose the first day of summer to warn against heat-related deaths of children left unattended in vehicles that quickly can become death traps.

“Death can occur within five to 10 minutes,” said Dr. Lillian Liao, director of pediatric trauma and burns at University Hospital.

Liao said since their bodies are smaller, they can heat up quicker than adults, making them more susceptible to dehydration and heat stroke.

She said temperatures inside vehicles can be 20 to 30 degrees hotter than it is outside, even with the windows cracked open or in the shade.

“A lot of people think, 'Oh, I’m going to just run in for five minutes,'” Liao said. “Five minutes can be devastating.”

Liao said she urges anyone who encounters that situation of a child, to not hesitate and immediately call 911.

Besides being against the law, San Antonio police Chief William McManus said if something were to happen, there also are personal consequences for the parent or caregiver.

“You’ve got to live with that for the rest of your life and that’s not something that should happen to anyone,” McManus said.

After a record 13 heat-related child deaths statewide in 2010, the Heat Stroke Task Force was formed, led by Johnny Humphreys of the advocacy group, Safe Kids.

Humphreys said since then, the numbers have fallen, but three already have died in Texas this year.

However, he said so far, none have occurred in San Antonio.

Humphreys said parents and the public should remember the word ACT.

He said they should avoid the situation, if possible, create reminders in their vehicles, such as notes or leaving their purses or cell phones near their child, and take action by calling 911.

Liao said, “It’s a huge problem -- 30 deaths last year, nationwide -- yet it’s easily preventable.”

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.


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