The tragedy of finding a child or baby after being left unattended in the dangerous heat of a sweltering car is a nightmare no parent wants to endure. We often ask parents, “How could you forget your child?” While this is reasonable, people ask these questions only after it’s too late.
Instead we should ask, “How can we prevent this tragedy from happening?”
Tips to keep kids safe from hot cars
Melissa Luxton, MSN, RN, injury prevention coordinator at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, shares tips on how we can reduce the likelihood of leaving a pet or child in the car:
“Leaving important items, like a purse or wallet, in the backseat is a little trick that will remind you to take a look in the backseat before going into the grocery store or parking your car in the garage,” says Luxton.
Another tip Luxton shares is to keep a teddy bear in the car seat when driving alone, then move it to the front seat when a child is in the car. This will serve as a visual reminder that there is a child with you.
What temperature inside a car is too hot for kids?
It’s important to know it doesn’t take 115-degree weather for the inside of a car to become deadly. In Arizona, monsoon season drops the usual summer temperatures to 100 degrees or below. This can easily fool some into thinking it’s okay to leave a child in the car seat while running into the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. Don’t make this mistake. When temperatures outside reach 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 138 degrees in as little as five minutes, and 150 degrees in 15 minutes. In fact, within just a few minutes, a 70-degree day can scorch the insides of a vehicle to 90 degrees—a temperature too hot for infants and children to safely handle.
Additionally, heat affects children differently than adults because, naturally, they are smaller. Dehydration sets in much quicker. When you leave a child in a hot car, they overheat, quickly run out of sweat and then fall unconscious—eventually resulting in death.
Tragedy can also strike when you have the car parked at home. Kids often climb into vehicles on their own to play or look for a toy and can become trapped.
“The first two places to look for a child is the pool and then the car,” says Luxton. “Even when a car is parked in a garage, remember to lock the doors and keep the keys away from children.”
If you see a baby or child left unattended in a vehicle do not hesitate to call 911.
This post has been updated. It was originally published on August 3, 2017.