The cold hard truths about hot cars in summer heat

(Provided photo)

With summer here, things are heating up, especially cars left out in the sun on a hot day. Let me share some chilling information with you about the dangers of young children being left locked inside them, even for a few minutes.

Believe it or not, a car left in the sun can heat up inside by more than 20 degrees in about 10 minutes if the windows are closed and the air conditioning is off. This can start to happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also important to know that a child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and if the temperature inside a car reaches 104 degrees, a child’s major organs may start to shut down. At 107 degrees, death can occur from heatstroke.

Of course, parents always want to be attentive to their children, but they sometimes still forget their child is in the back seat, especially if the child is sleeping quietly when they stop to run an errand while focused on something other than their child.

Prevention tactics

¯ Start by always checking the back seat and making sure all children are out of the car before you lock it and walk away.

¯ A great idea is to put a cellphone, bag or purse — or even your left shoe — in the back seat every time you load your child in the car, so you are forced to check the back seat when you get to your destination.

¯ A great expression to keep in your head is “Look before you lock!”

It is also possible a child may climb into your car when it is parked but not locked, and then lock themselves inside. So please keep your car locked when it’s parked, and make sure children do not have easy access to your car keys, which should always be stored out of reach of your children. Better yet, just teach your children that cars are off limits for play at all times.

If you should come upon a child alone in a car and you are concerned, please call 911 for help, whether it is hot out or not.

Hopefully tips like these will drive home the importance of never leaving a child locked in a parked car especially on a hot summer’s day.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.


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