Heat dangerous for vulnerable children, pets

Base Info

Heat dangerous for vulnerable children, pets

by: Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson | .
published: June 21, 2013

Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan -- Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers, resulting in hundreds of fatalities annually, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.

As such, it is crucial to not leave children and pets alone in vehicles, especially on Okinawa where summer temperatures can reach the mid to high 90s, according to Aaron M. Davis, the supervisory occupational safety and health specialist with the Installation Safety Office, Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler

“Marine Corps Installations Pacific Order 5560.1 states that children under the age of 9 are not allowed to be left in a motor vehicle unattended, and is considered to be leaving your child in a harmful situation,” said Davis. “Marine Corps Bases Japan Order 5800.1C provides youth supervision guidelines for children and teens up to the age of 17.”

The interior temperature of a vehicle will continue to rise even if the windows are left slightly open, according to Davis.

“The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in as little as 10 minutes, and 50 degrees in an hour; even when outside air temperatures are in the 70s,” said Davis. “One of the biggest weather-related risks during the summer months is the possibility of a child dying in a vehicle from heat stroke.”

Hyperthermia, also known as heat stroke, occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph S. Delacruz Jr., a corpsman with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Children’s internal thermometers are not as efficient and heat up faster than those of an adult.

“Heat stroke begins once a person’s internal temperature is greater than 104 degrees” said Delacruz. “Heat injury can cause serious brain damage and in some cases death.”

A victim of heat stroke will have red, dry skin and become delirious and confused as their core temperature rises, according to Delacruz. At this point, a person no longer has the ability to produce sweat and may be unable to comprehend what is going on around them.

It is also important to remember that animals are just as vulnerable to the heat, according to Sgt. Austin T. French, a military working dog handler with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF. Some animals, such as dogs, are incapable of regulating their body temperatures as efficiently as humans.

Individuals should also ensure they do not leave pets unattended in vehicles as they are as susceptible to heat injuries and just as powerless to exit a vehicle as most children, according to French.

During the summer, take extra measures to protect children and pets from high temperatures and dangerous heat, according to Davis.

“It’s important to take appropriate precautions and ensure that everyone is properly hydrated and not being over exposed to the heat,” said Davis.