Father buckling daughter into car seat.Injury Prevention

Hazards of Hot Cars

By: Amy Watkins, MPH

The statistics are alarming: about 40 children die from heat stroke every summer in the United States after being trapped inside hot cars. In more than half of these deaths, a parent forgot and unintentionally left their child behind in the car. Connecticut Children’s embraces every opportunity to raise awareness about the need to prevent such tragedies.

In collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center is getting the word out through our “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign. The annual campaign includes billboard advertisements, digital advertisements, social media posts and a website featuring information about how to protect your family from experiencing a tragedy. 

The temperature inside a car can quickly climb to greater than 100 degrees, even when outside temperatures are as low as the 70s. What many people don’t realize is that children overheat three to five times faster than adults because they are not as efficient as adults in regulating their body temperatures. Once a person’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees, it is a medical emergency. Heatstroke is a cascading series of bodily failures which can cause dizziness, nausea, confusion, and cell death. When a person’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys stop working which can result in severe injuries or even death.

Non one thinks it will happen to them. Yet it does. Parenting can be exhausting, and it is easy to become forgetful, especially when there is a change in routine. If you don’t normally drop your child at daycare, leave something essential for your day in the back seat. Sleeping, rear-facing babies are silent and not visible, so take this extra step.

Here are four things you can do to prevent a heatstroke tragedy:

  1. Never leaving your child alone in the car, even for a few minutes. A few minutes is all it takes for the car to heat up to dangerous levels.
  2. Lock the doors after you leave your car to prevent curious children from climbing inside and getting trapped.
  3. Create reminders for yourself by leaving a briefcase, a purse, a cell phone or a shoe in the backseat so you will have to check the backseat when you exit the vehicle.
  4. Take immediate action and call 911 if you see a child left unattended inside a locked car.

Make sure to take every precaution to ensure children do not get into unlocked cars or do not get left behind in a vehicle this summer. For more information, visit the “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign website at www.wheresbaby.org.

Amy Watkins, MPH, is the director of Safe Kids Connecticut, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center.

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