Kids and Hot Cars
Hot cars are no place for children. Since 1998, more than 800 young children have died in overheated cars, according to the National Safety Council. Often, these tragedies involve a child being forgotten as a parent leaves the car or a child accidentally locks him- or herself inside a hot car or trunk.
Heatstroke and children
The rapid rise in the interior car temperature is critical to understand. In just 10 minutes, a car’s interior temperature can rise nearly 20 degrees. The rapid rise in temperature is dangerous for a child, according to Andrew Miller, DO, Chief, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. “A child’s body temperature rises faster than an adult. This leads to a child becoming dehydrated and suffering a heatstroke, which can cause permanent brain or organ damage, or death,” he says.
Out of sight, out of mind
Many people think, “This will never happen to me,” but even the most vigilant parent makes mistakes. “Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding child overheating deaths shows us that, more than half of the time, children are left in the car for unintended reasons,” Miller says. Often a forgotten child involves a distracted parent or a day when usual routine changes, such as a father taking his child to daycare when the mother cannot. When customary practice changes, it is easy to forget a quiet passenger.
Look before you lock
There are steps you can take to keep your child safe when you’re traveling on a hot day:
Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.
Use drive-through services whenever possible to avoid the need to get out of the car.
Give yourself reminders that a child is in the backseat. Put your diaper bag in the front seat, or secure your purse, briefcase or phone in the back seat. (TIP: If you use Waze, a GPS Navigation app, it offers a “Child Reminder” feature. Enable it in Settings. This alert appears every time your vehicle reaches its destination.)
Always lock your car when you leave it to prevent a child from getting inside. According to NHTSA, nearly 30 percent of these heatstroke deaths occur when a child gains access to a vehicle. Teach your child that the car is not a toy.
If a child is locked in a car, get him or her out right away. Call 911 for help if needed. Call 911 immediately if the child looks flushed or listless.
Don’t let your guard down even on a day without much sun or by finding shelter under trees. Shady conditions may temporarily help, however two hours inside a vehicle can still cause heat injury or death.
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