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Fort Worth pediatrician warning drivers of heat-related illness among children in hot cars

Texas ranks high for children left in vehicles who suffer heat-related illnesses.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Dr. Priya Bui is sounding the alarm for every driver with kids as passengers. The extreme heat outside can be dangerous to children left in vehicle.

As a HSC Health pediatrician, Bui fears the worst-case scenario. 

"Losing the child. But other than that, you can have organ damage, right? So, you can have things that affect your kidney, or your heart, or your brain that can happen from severe heat exhaustion or heat stroke," Bui said. "It's just going to take minutes for a child to start to overheat." 

Bui's warning comes just days after Fort Worth police responded to the 3500 block of North Littlejohn Avenue. On Sunday, officers found five children, ages 1 to 6, inside a vehicle asleep or passed out with the engine running without A/C. 

It's something medics see far too often in our area.

RELATED: Kids in hot car calls in DFW significantly higher this year, officials say

John Hamilton works as a MedStar operations supervisor in Fort Worth.  

"Since the first part of May, we've had 14 children left in vehicles," Hamilton said. "Luckily, the outcome hasn't been as tragic as it could be, but still, that's 14 kids too many." 

Hamilton also stressed it's not just adults leaving children behind by accident in some cases. Children are sometimes naturally curious, and leaving your car keys in reach can lead to an incident. 

"It's important also not to let children have access to the vehicle, even when your home, to be able to unlock it. About one-third of the fatalities have occurred because that child has been able to access a vehicle and just doesn't know to get back out of it," said Hamilton. 

In the latest case, Fort Worth officers put the children in their air-conditioned squad cars before paramedics took them to the hospital. Police later arrested their 29-year-old father, identified as Jose Leal, on five counts of abandonment-endangerment. 

Texas ranks number one in the U.S. for hot car deaths involving children, according MedStar. Last year, 23 kids died in hot vehicles -- two of them were Texas children. 

Bui stresses anyone around children should know how to identify heat-related illnesses.  

"They're going to start sweating profusely. They might be actually crying or trying to show that they're uncomfortable. But eventually, they're going to get really drowsy and sleepy," said Bui. 

For more information on the dangers of hot cars for children, click here to visit MedStar's website.

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