Summer heat turns cars into ovens
- Look before you lock and get into the habit of checking the back seat before leaving your vehicle.
- Put something you’ll need, like a cell phone or wallet, in the back seat.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is in the seat, place the animal in the front seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the car.
- Keep cars locked at all times and keep keys out of reach of children.
- Use drive-thru services when available and pay for gas at the pump.
Never leave a child or pet in a car, not even for a minute
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Temperatures around Colorado have been reaching record highs already this summer, turning cars into ovens in a matter of minutes.
Roughly 37 children die every year in hot cars, according to the safety organization Kids and Cars. And parents who think they could never possibly forget their child in the car should think again.
“It can happen to anyone, even a loving, educated, responsible adult can be distracted and leave a child in a car,” said Dr. Patricia Dietzgen, Family Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Frisco Medical Offices. “Children often fall asleep in the car, or are placed in rear-facing seats, making it easy to forget that they are there.”
Research shows that habits, such as driving from home to work every day, interfere with brain functioning when there’s a change to the routine. Forgotten Baby Syndrome is a result of the brain’s ability to allow you to do things without thinking about them, according to published interviews with David Diamond, a professor at the University of South Florida who has been studying Forgotten Baby Syndrome since 2004.
Why children are so at risk
In a closed car, 2/3 of the temperature increase occurs in the first 15 to 20 minutes, Dietzgen said. Cracking windows is not enough to decrease the heat. “It is never OK to leave a child unattended in a car, for any amount of time,” she said.
Children overheat 3 to 5 times faster than adults, and their central nervous systems are less developed than adults, making it harder to handle the heat, Dietzgen said. They also have fewer sweat glands, which prevents them from adapting to rising temperatures as quickly as adults can.
An outside temperature of 80 degrees can reach as high as 100 to 120 degrees in a closed car, Dietzgen said.
“Pets are also vulnerable as dogs have higher body temperatures than we do,” she said. “They also lack sweat glands, making it more difficult for them to cool off.”
Heat stroke is the main killer of children in hot cars. Looks for signs in children such as listlessness, and pale or beet red skin that is hot to the touch. Also, roughly half of the children who suffer from heat stroke do not sweat.
Prevention is key
The majority of people think they could never leave a child unattended in a car, but Dietzgen warns that with so many distractions, it is very easy to do.
“Get in the habit of opening your back doors to check the back seat for passengers,” she said. “
There have also been numerous death cases in which curious young children climb into a car on their own without their parents’ knowledge and become trapped inside.
“Keep vehicles locked when not in use to prevent kids from getting inside alone,” Dietzgen said. “Twenty-eight percent of kids that have died from heat stroke entered the cars on their own.”
Because of this statistic, it’s important to keep car keys out of reach and to always check vehicles right away if a child goes missing, she said.
“Focus on the car, driving and occupants rather than cell phone, texts or your upcoming meeting,” Dietzgen said.
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