It seems unthinkable, and yet it happens. Every year, children die after being left in the car on a hot day — even just for a few minutes.
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There are some misconceptions about this issue, as explained by pediatrician Skyler Kalady, MD. She separates the myths from the facts and offers simple, powerful tips to protect children.
Here are five common myths about hot car dangers for kids.
1. Myth: This doesn’t happen when parents are caring and attentive
Fact: Researchers estimate that half of these incidents involve a loving parent or caregiver who forgets a sleeping child in the backseat. Even a simple change in the childcare drop-off routine could confuse sleep-deprived parents and cause them to leave an infant behind, unaware.
2. Myth: If it’s only 60 degrees outside, my car can’t heat up to dangerous levels
Fact: An outside temperature of just 60 degrees can heat your car up to well above 100.
3. Myth: If I only leave my children in the car for 10 minutes, it will be OK
Fact: On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach a dangerously hot level in as little as 10 minutes.
4. Myth: I can gauge the level of heat in the car based on how hot I feel
Fact: A child’s body’s temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Their body temperature can rise faster relative to their body surface area. Also, children don’t have the same ability to produce sweat to cool off.
5. Myth: If I leave the window cracked open, it will keep the car cool
Fact: According to researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a car’s windows act as a greenhouse and cracking one does little to keep the car cool.
Tips for parents
Dr. Kalady offers some common sense tips to help parents and caregivers. She says also it’s important to form the kind of daily habits that can prevent hot car deaths.
- Position the car seat so that it is not directly behind the drivers’ seat. Placing the car seat on the passenger side allows parents to see the child more easily.
- Keep an important item, like a purse, cell phone, or employee ID badge in the back seat with your child.
- You can keep a stuffed animal, diaper bag or any visual cue on your front seat when your baby is in the car. Using a visual cue like this can help because babies fall asleep and can’t always give you an auditory clue.
- Get into a regular habit of looking in the back seat before you lock your car doors.
- Instruct your child’s caregiver to give you a call if your child doesn’t show up by a certain time.
- If your child is playing outside and disappears for a few minutes, check the car immediately, including the trunk. It’s possible for kids to accidently lock themselves in a parked car.
Most hot car deaths are accidental, yet there’s never a good reason to leave a child alone in the car for any length of time. If you see an infant or child in a parked car and no adults are present, it’s important to be a good citizen. Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1. It could save a life.