Anticipatory Guidance for the Prevention of Pediatric Deaths Due to Heat Stroke Caused by Being Left Unattended in Vehicles
CPS ePoster Library. Huber J. Jun 1, 2017; 176639
Dr. Joelene Huber
Dr. Joelene Huber
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Abstract
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Background: An average of 37 children die annually in the United States from heat stroke as a result of being left unattended inside a vehicle (pediatric vehicular hyperthermia, PVH). The majority of these deaths occur because a caregiver unintentionally leaves a child in the car, often referred to as forgotten baby syndrome (FBS). Other causes include children being knowingly left in vehicles and children getting into unattended vehicles on their own. The current rates of childhood deaths from PVH in Canada are unknown.

Objectives: To review the rate of childhood deaths in Canada from PVH over the past 15 years and to provide pediatricians with anticipatory guidance strategies to help prevent deaths due to PVH.

Methods: Incidence data of PVH deaths in Canada were obtained from coroner's offices and from news reports found on Factiva and ProQuest databases. A scoping review was conducted using key search terms related to PVH and FBS.

Results: In Canada, there have been numerous reports of children being left unattended in vehicles. There have been 4 confirmed deaths due to PVH in the last 15 years. Three of the four cases were attributed to FBS. There was one reported case due to a child climbing into an unlocked, unattended vehicle.

Conclusion: Reports of children being left unattended either knowingly or unintentionally in vehicles in Canada are not uncommon. Stress, distractions and changes in routine can contribute to a shift in attention and FBS. To help caregivers prevent incidents of PVH in Canada, we suggest the following anticipatory guidance by physicians to all parents: 1) Caregivers should be advised to never leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle; 2) Caregivers should place essential items such as wallets and cellphones near their child in the back seat to serve as a reminder when exiting the vehicle; 3) Caregivers can place a reminder (i.e. a toy or diaper bag) in the front seat when an infant or child has been placed in the back seat; 3) Caregivers should make a habit of always checking the back seat before leaving the car; 4) Caregivers should request that childcare providers contact them in the event that the child does not arrive as anticipated; 5) Parked vehicles should be kept locked at all times and keys out of reach of children; 6) If a child is missing, check the car.

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