“Beat the heat” became more than just a catchy slogan Tuesday when DeKalb County’s Board of Health demonstrated how threatening the hot temperatures can be with its “6th Annual Beat the Heat Awareness Campaign.”
The campaign was held to remind parents and caregivers that they shouldn’t leave infants, children, anyone with a chronic illness or pets inside of a parked vehicle on days when the temperature is extremely high.
DeKalb County Health Director Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford said heat-related deaths are still prevalent in Georgia, and the high temperatures can cause brain swelling.
In just seven months, Georgia has had 14 heat-related deaths of children inside of cars, including 22-month-old Cooper Harris of Cobb County. Harris died June 18 after his father, Justin Ross Harris, left him in the car for more than seven hours while he was at work. Justin Harris has been charged with the toddler’s death.
“It doesn’t take long in [a high] temperature to have brain swelling, which is a dangerous thing,” Ford said. “That’s when your respiratory effort gets depressed, and that’s how folks die.”
During the “Beat the Heat” demonstration, two trays of S’mores made of marshmallows, chocolate bars and craham crackers, were placed into a car with a temperature of 116 degrees for 20 minutes to show how quickly the car can heat up.
While the S’mores were melting, 11-month-old Navaeh Jackson, daughter of Queenisha Howard, was placed inside of another vehicle with the air condition on to exemplify infants and children being left alone in cars . A dog, Bonnie, was put into this same car afterward to display how pets can be affected by the high outdoor temperatures due to their fur.
Ford said to keep from accidentally forgetting a child in a vehicle, parents should create reminders such as: writing a note and leaving it in plain view, placing an item in the backseat that has to be retrieved when parents get out of the car (such as a purse or briefcase) and keeping a familiar object in the car seat with the child so that parents can see it when they are getting out of the vehicle.
People are encouraged to watch for warning signals of either heat exhaustion or a heat stroke. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signs of heat exhaustion consist of heavy sweating, weakness, nausea or vomiting, fainting, a fast or weak pulse and cold, clammy or pale skin.
People should look for an elevated body temperature, a rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness and hot, red, dry or moist skin as these are all signs of a heat stroke, according to the CDC.
To avoid a heat-related illness or death, a person should stay in air conditioned places, drink plenty of fluids and wear lightweight or light-colored clothing.
In addition to wearing light clothing and staying hydrated, infants and children are to never be left alone inside of a vehicle and not have any heavy meals that will make them tired as their bodies will not breathe well if they’re asleep. The most important thing is for parents to pay attention to what is going on with their children in the backseat.
Windows that are cracked or left down are still harmful, and should not be used as a precaution.
“Cracking a window does not do anything,” Ford said. “There is [not a] safe time because anything can happen.”
If a person begins to suffer due to the hot temperature, they should be moved to a cool place that will assist with lowering their body temperatures, given a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes and put in a cool bath. They can also be wrapped with wet sheets.
In severe cases, 911 should be called, and they should be taken to the nearest emergency room quickly.
For more information about heat safety, people can contact the Board of Health at 404-294-3700 or visit the website at dekalbhealth.net.