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Lori Abbott, California News Service

June 18, 2014 (Sacramento)--The first day of summer may be on Saturday, but parts of California already have seen triple-digit heat this year - and more is on the way. With that in mind, health officials across the West are urging people to be careful in the potentially deadly heat.

This is the time of year when it's easy to fall victim to heat exhaustion, which can cause serious health problems, said Henry Varela, public information officer for New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department. Those at greatest risk of heat-related illness are seniors and children, he said.

"Children's body temperatures rise at three to five times that of an adult," he said. "Therefore, when it comes to children, they're probably more at risk than anybody else."

Varela stressed that leaving a child in a hot car even for a short time can be dangerous and have negative health consequences. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 650 people a year die from heat-related causes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in more than half of cases where children have died from heat stroke in America in the past 15 years, the caregiver reported "forgetting" the child was even in the vehicle. Varela said that sometimes, kids can sneak into the unlocked family car at home and get locked inside.

"That's why it's always important for parents to be vigilant, not only when they're driving in the car with their child and going somewhere, but also when you're at home," he said. "Make sure your doors are locked so that your children can't get in."

In the United States, heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash-related deaths in vehicles for children under age 14.


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