Don’t Leave Your Child in a Hot Car

By Judith Tighe, RN, CPN, nurse blogger at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Judith TigheParents and caregivers most often leave children in hot cars due to a change in routine or a quick errand that turns out to be longer than anticipated. Because of all the publicity and increase in children being left in sweltering cars, I was inspired to write this article. To learn more, I reached out to Helen Arbogast, MPH, CHES, manager of the Injury Prevention Program at CHLA.

Did you know there is no safe amount of time to leave any child in a car alone? Every 10 days in the U.S., a child dies when left alone in the car. The temperature in a car rises rapidly in the first 30 minutes, even on a cool day. Leaving the car windows open does not allow enough air into the vehicle. Other reasons why leaving children in a hot car is dangerous include:

  • The child is tightly strapped into the seat, not allowing free movement.
  • It takes only a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit for heat stroke to occur. 107 degrees is usually fatal.
  • A child’s body warms up three to five times faster than an adult’s body.

Hot CarSigns Of Overheating

If a child is overheating, they will have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting

How To Remember There Is a Child In the Back Seat

Look before you lock and ACT! Always check for children in the car before locking. At CHLA, we want everyone to ACT:

A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it, so kids don’t get in on their own.

C: Create reminders by putting something – such as a briefcase, a purse or cell phone you will need at your final destination – in the back seat of your car next to your child. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.

T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Being responsible might not always be convenient or as speedy, but it is worth slowing down and assessing the odds before making a decision that might be irresponsible.

For more information on the hazards of leaving children in a hot car, visit WeTreatKidsBetter.org.

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