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The Deadly Reason Caregivers Should Never Leave Children In Cars, Even For A Few Minutes
Leaving a sleeping baby or young child inside a car for just a few minutes to run into a store may seem harmless. But this split-second decision can have deadly consequences.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children, according to Safekids.org, On average, one child dies from heat stroke in a vehicle every eight days.
Even on a mild-weathered day — say, 70 degrees — the temperature inside of a parked car can reach dangerous levels. In merely 10 minutes, it can rise to 89 degrees. After 20 minutes, the temperature can reach 99 degrees; after 30 minutes, 104 degrees; after 60 minutes, 113 degrees and after two hours, the temperature inside a car can reach a staggering 120 degrees. This scary progression is based on research by Jan Null, who is with the department of earth and climate sciences at San Francisco State University.
Even keeping windows slightly cracked open made little difference in the dangerously rising temperatures.
Add this to the fact that a child’s small body heats up three-to-five times more quickly than an adult’s would in the same condition. This is because a child’s internal cooling system, sweating, is not nearly as effective. Organs start shutting down when the body temperature of a child reaches 104 degrees, and heatstroke happens when it approaches 107 degrees, according to Parents.com.
Tragically, many of these hot car-related deaths are a result of caregivers forgetting a sleeping child because of some change in routine. It’s not something they would have ever dreamed happening to them. But one simple mistake — turning right to go to work instead of left to drop a baby off at daycare — can changes the lives of a family forever.
So what can parents do to make sure such a tragic mistake never happens to them? Here are a few tips that can help caregivers avoid forgetting a young child inside of a hot car:
- Place your purse, phone or something else you will need in the back seat of your car. This will ensure that you check the back seat before leaving the vehicle.
- Get into a routine of opening up your vehicle’s back door and checking the back seat every time you exit.
- Keep a stuffed animal or toy in your child’s unoccupied car seat. Put that toy in the front seat when you place the child in the seat as a reminder that the child is in the back of the car.
- Set up a system with your babysitter or childcare provider in advance. Let it be known that if you won’t be dropping off your child for any reason, that you will call them to them know. Likewise, if you miss a dropout without prior warning, instruct your childcare provider to contact you.
- Be sure to discuss the risks of leaving/forgetting children in hot cars with grandparents and anyone else who will be transporting your child.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle for more than a few minutes, get the child out and call 911.