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Group warns parents about kids, hot cars

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Blistering as it is outside, there's an even hotter spot indoors where children may be in danger.

In the United States during the sweltering summer of 1999, "an average of one child died every four days from being in a hot car," said Rachel Smith of the Utah Safe Kids Coalition. "One-third of those deaths came after a child crawled into an unlocked car, and then their little hands weren't strong enough to open the door." Parents should keep their vehicles locked even if they're at home.

Since children's body temperatures rise faster than adults', they can go into shock and suffer organ failure, Smith said.

Within 20 minutes, the temperature inside a parked car can climb 35 degrees hotter than the outdoor temperature. And after 30 minutes in 93-degree heat, the inside of the vehicle can reach 140 degrees, according to the national Safe Kids Campaign www.safekids.org.

"Sometimes parents will keep their kids in the car while they run in and get something at the store," Smith added. "That's not OK, even if it's 'just for a minute.' "

Besides bringing children with you into the cool store, make sure they drink a lot of water throughout the day. "Water's the best. Sports drinks like Gatorade are good, but water's the easiest to get."

Hydration helps prevent heatstroke, but parents should also watch for its early signs: warm, flushed skin and an absence of perspiration. Victims "don't sweat . . . so the heat is trapped inside," Smith said. First aid starts with laying the person down in a cool place, applying cool, wet cloths and having the victim drink cool water. If symptoms persist, find medical help.