Children in Hot Cars - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Children in Hot Cars


UNDATED (WEBMD) -- It's summer. It's hot. And every year, the unthinkably tragic happens — children die as a result of being left in hot cars.

There have already been such deaths this year. More than 500 children have died in hot cars since 1998, according to the nonprofit organization, Kids and Cars.

Children's bodies overheat more easily than adults. They absorb more heat on a hot day and don't have the same sweating ability as adults. That can raise their body temperature to dangerous and even fatal levels, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

"When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's body temperature increase three to five times as fast as an adult," NHTSA's web site states. "Even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature to rise well above 110° Fahrenheit inside your car. The inside temperature can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes."

WebMD has covered this before. And before you brush it off as something that seems far-fetched — something that could never happen in your family — read this Washington Post story from 2009 — it won a Pulitzer Prize but more importantly, shows how forgetting a child in a car can happen much more easily than you may think.

"The most dangerous mistake a parent or caregiver can make is to think it cannot happen to them or their family," the Kids and Cars web site states. And in more than half of the cases, the kids are accidentally left in the car. Other kids have died after getting into a vehicle on their own, without an adult knowing about it.

Here are safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please take a moment to review them — even if you think you'd never make such a mistake:

  1. Never leave infants or children unattended in a vehicle — even if the windows are partly open or the engine is running and the air conditioning is on.
  2. Don't let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
  3. Ask your childcare center to call you if your child doesn't arrive on time for childcare.
  4. Make a habit of looking in the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
  5. Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle, such as:
    •    Write yourself a note and place it where you'll see it when you leave the vehicle.
    •    Place your purse, briefcase or something else you're sure to need in the back seat so you'll be sure to see a child left in the vehicle.
    •    Keep an object in the car seat, such as a stuffed toy. Once the child is buckled in, place the object where the driver will notice it when he or she leaves the vehicle.
  6. Always lock vehicle doors and trunks and keep keys out of children's reach. If a child is missing, check the vehicle first, including the trunk.

If you see a child left alone in a hot vehicle: Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. When children are in distress due to heat, get them out of the vehicle as quickly as possible. Warning signs of hyperthermia include: red, hot, and moist or dry skin, no sweating, a strong rapid pulse, a slow weak pulse, nausea or acting strangely. Cool the child rapidly.

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