It’s a panic-stricken moment even the most careful parents can encounter — the instant you realize your child is locked in a hot car.
According to the Associated Press, since June 13th eight children have died of hyperthermia. If you go back to January the total number of deaths is 18. The natural, knee-jerk reaction might be to wonder where the parents were. We see stories in the news about parents charged after leaving kids in a hot car to run into a store, but before you rush to judgement, consider this: several of the more recent deaths involved children who got into an unlocked car on a hot day and couldn’t get out. It happens, even when Mom and Dad are the so-called perfect parents. For more on that angle, I suggest reading Lisa Belkin’s “Who Forgets a Child in a Car?”
The relatively high number of deaths since mid-June have safety groups and the U.S. government sounding the alarm.
Safety tips from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to prevent hyperthermia include:
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
- Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
- Never leave infants or children in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
- Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
- If you are bringing your child to daycare, and normally it’s your spouse or partner who brings them, have your spouse or partner call you to make sure everything went according to plan.
- Ask your childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for childcare. Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as:
- Writing yourself a note and putting the note where you will see it when you leave the vehicle;
- Placing your purse, briefcase or something else you need in the back seat so that you will have to check the back seat when you leave the vehicle; or
- Keeping an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. When the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she is leaving the vehicle.
- Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children’s reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.
- If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Warning signs may include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Remember, heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult. We’ve had a hot start to the summer here in Frederick (August in June, anyone?), but it’s important to remember it doesn’t have to be a scorching hot day for the car to turn into an oven. Even with relatively cool temperatures outside — think 70 degrees — the inside of a car can reach a dangerous temperature in just minutes.
For more information on child safety, inside the car and out, visit SafeKids.org.