Protect your children from the severe heatwave. Every summer in South Africa, there are instances where the lives of children are at risk or lost as a result of this phenomenon.

By Telegram Reporter

Three children died after getting stuck in a vehicle in extreme heat in Bolebedu, Tzaneen, as reported by Limpopo police.

The tragic incident took place on Wednesday afternoon, with two of the children being siblings and the third living close by.

According to the police, a three-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister left their home to play with their two-year-old neighbour.

“While playing, they got inside a parked vehicle with all the windows closed,” said Col Malesela Ledwaba. 

“They were later discovered unconscious by a relative who alerted the elders. The three children were taken to the local clinic. Two were declared dead on arrival while the third — the three-year-old boy was transferred to Kgapane hospital and later to Mankweng where he was admitted and pronounced dead,” Ledwaba said. 

The police have opened an inquest docket and are conducting investigations into the fatalities.

In the meantime, Lt-Gen Thembi Hadebe, the Police Commissioner of Limpopo, emphasised the importance of parental vigilance in preventing similar incidents from taking place.

Why Car Heat Is A Child-Killer

By Olivia Rose-Innes

Every summer in South Africa, we have incidents where children’s lives are lost or threatened in this way.

Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature exceeds 40°C and the thermoregulatory mechanism, or heat control, is overwhelmed and fails. At a core body temperature of 41.7°C, cell damage occurs, and internal organs shut down. 

Children’s thermoregulatory systems aren’t as efficient as adults’ and their body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster. A child’s body has a greater skin surface area to mass ratio than an adult’s, which means they absorb heat more quickly. Children also don’t sweat as much as adults do, making them less able to lose heat through evaporative cooling.

Heatstroke as a result of exposure to high temperatures in stationary cars is known as vehicular hypothermia, and it can sometimes be fatal.

The younger the child, the greater the risk, with infants the most vulnerable of all. The majority of children and babies lost to heatstroke in cars are under seven years old, and of these, about half are under two years old. However, deaths from this cause have been recorded in adolescents as old as 14.

Cars quickly become oven-hot

Car windows act like a greenhouse: they let in sunlight and heat, trapping it inside the vehicle. Studies on temperature increases in car interiors have shown that, even on fairly mild days (outdoor temperatures in the low 20s), your vehicle can quickly become baking hot.

After only 10 minutes, the interior of a stationary vehicle can rise by over 10°C. After 1-2 hours, temperatures can increase by 28°C.

Researchers have found that leaving the window open a crack has little effect on lowering temperatures.

Although it may seem inconceivable that one could forget one’s child, it has happened to some of the most caring parents. In the United States, an analysis of fatalities from vehicular hyperthermia showed that over half were a result of children being forgotten in the back seats of cars. About 30% were as a result of children playing in unattended vehicles, and 17% were cases where caretakers had left children in cars intentionally.

Not on your watch

These safety recommendations from Jan Null, vehicular hyperthermia researcher at San Francisco State University, are lifesavers:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, not even for a minute.
  • If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call emergency services.
  • Always lock your car and ensure children don’t have access to keys or remote control devices. If a child is missing, check the swimming pool first, then the car, including the boot. 
  • Teach children that vehicles are not a play area.
  • Get into a “look before you leave” routine whenever you get out of the car.
  • Use visual memory aids to remind you that you have a child in the car. E.g. keep a stuffed animal toy in the child’s car seat and when the child is put in the seat place the toy in the front with the driver. Or, place your purse, briefcase or laptop on the back seat.
  • Organise that your childcare provider will call you if your child doesn’t show up for daycare/school. –

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