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Summer brings attention to safety
Summer is officially here with today's summer solstice - the longest day of the year - and state health officials are reminding parents of the dangers of leaving children in a car during hot weather.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatalities for children ages 14 and under, and the chance of experiencing heatstroke symptoms rises greatly in summer months.

One child dies nearly every 10 days from being left in a hot vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Hot days are already arriving in Brunswick and the Golden Isles. Temperatures are expected to rise this week, with highs climbing into the low 90s.

In 2011, at least 33 children under the age of 4, including three in Georgia, died from heatstroke after being left alone in cars, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"It doesn't seem like a large number, but it is to that family whose children died from something as simple as that," said Sharon Smith, health services program manager for the Glynn County Health Department.

It's not always that parents intend to be away from their children for an extended period of time, Smith said. Parents may expect to run a quick errand and encounter a long line or another delay.

"Nobody is doing this on purpose," Smith said. "You just think, 'It's only going to take me a minute and I'll be right back out,' but it doesn't always happen that way."

Stepping away for even a short time can lead to heatstroke symptoms and possibly prove fatal.

"Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes," said Seema Csukas, interim director of Department of Public Health's Maternal and Child Health Program.

An estimated 30 percent of heatstroke deaths in children are from a child getting into a vehicle on his or her own.

"Just always err on the side of caution," Smith said. "Our children are important."

If you suspect a child is suffering from heatstroke, cool the child rapidly with a cool water spray, but do not use an ice bath. Contact emergency officials immediately.

Warning signs of heatstroke include red, hot and moist or dry skin, no sweating, strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea, confusion or acting strangely.

Keep an eye on pets, too:

Rising temperatures can also be dangerous for pets.

Pets should never be left alone in a vehicle because they can experience symptoms of a heatstroke or death from high heat, especially short-nosed breeds, older dogs, and those with compromised lung function, according to the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia.

If a pet is confined outdoors, it should have access to shelter, shade and fresh water.

Pets taken to the beach should be provided with fresh water. Drinking ocean salt water can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

Signs of heatstroke in pets include excessive panting or breathing difficulty, weakness and collapse, disorientation and seizures.

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