Feeling the Heat: Never Leave Children Behind

With summer approaching, even a seemingly perfect day of 70 degrees can lead to a tragic death for your infant or young child. Each year, children suffer from heatstroke or die after being exposed to high heat temperatures in the car. Adults are also prone to suffering from heatstroke in the car, but children (under the age of 1 year) are most often unintentionally left behind.

You love your children and would do anything for them, but before you pack them up in the car on a sweltering day, decide if you are willing to take the risk of having them become overheated. Sure, it may be hard to find a sitter for your newborn, but when the temps are high, rethink your day.

Hot Cars and Children

According to data released by the Department of Meteorology and Climate Sciences at San Diego University, 30 children died of heatstroke after being left in a car in 2014. What may be more surprising is that only 19 states have laws protecting children from being left behind in cars. So what happens when a child is left in a hot car?

Many well-intentioned parents think, “I’ll just run in to the store quickly…”, but unfortunately, a car heats up to dangerous temperatures faster than you think. During the first 20 minutes, two-thirds of the temperature rise occurs. For instance, on average, after a 10 minute time lapse a 19 degree increase occurs. After 20 minutes a 29 degree increase occurs. Infants and children are more sensitive to heat stroke and their bodies are not as efficient as an adult’s. When the core body temperature reaches 107 degrees F or higher, the cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down, which may eventually lead to death.

Don’t Forget

It’s difficult to imagine how someone could forget about their infant or child sitting in the backseat, but unfortunately it happens and leads to preventable deaths. People get busy, they are flooded with distractions, new parents are often sleep deprived, but whatever the reason it hardly seems like a viable excuse.

While there is no magic “reminder” to help you remember your child, who is sitting or sleeping quietly in the back, here are some tips to help you remember:

  • Set a reminder on your cellphone or place a post-it on your dashboard. Do anything that will help you remember your child.

Many parents and caregivers assume that a less than 10 minute trip into the store is “OK”, as well as leaving the window open a crack. In reality, leaving your window open will do little to nothing and a majority of the heat depends on the color of the interior of your vehicle. Either way, it’s never a good idea to leave your child in the car, unattended (even if he or she is sound asleep).

A Note About Pets

Like young children, pets are at risk of heatstroke and death after being left in the car. As you know, your dog will do anything to make you happy and even though Fido loves car rides more than anything else, you should keep him home on hot days.

Keep your children and pets safe this summer during sweltering temps. Rather than toting them in the car from errand to errand, don’t take the risk of heat stroke or death, leave them at home and out of the car.