Leaving a child alone in the car can have deadly consequences, even on just a warm day and only for a few minutes. It’s a preventable scenario that can happen to anyone – after a busy morning getting ready for work a parent could easily forget their baby in the backseat of a car, or while running a few quick errands it may seem easier to leave a restless 5-year-old in the backseat, or a sleeping toddler in their car seat.
However, a child should never be left alone in a car, not even for a couple of minutes, says Dr. Tony Woodward, medical director of emergency medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. On average in the U.S., 38 children die each year from heatstroke in hot cars, according to KidsAndCars.org. Some of the children are forgotten, some are intentionally left there, and others gain access accidentally.
“Children often cannot change their location or environment, so it’s up to us to ensure that they are safe,” Woodward said. He offers the following advice to parents to avoid a tragic accident from occurring in their families:
Always take your kids inside with you
It can seem tempting to leave a child in a car while running quick errands. However, in a matter of minutes, the situation can turn deadly. Because a child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s body, the risk to a child can escalate quickly. It doesn’t take much time for a child’s body temperature to become too high in a car. It’s also important to remember that the temperature in an enclosed car can rise as much as 30 degrees in the first 20 minutes.
“Children, especially babies, don’t have the ability to regulate their temperature as well as adults,” said Woodward. “A child has a large body surface area which absorbs heat. Unfortunately, what happens is the child can’t cool their body down, sometimes resulting in death.”
Leave a phone, purse or briefcase in the backseat of the car when a child is in back
This simple reminder will help caregivers remember to look in the backseat where the child is located before leaving the car.
Set a reminder on a smart phone calendar to ensure a child was taken and dropped off at daycare
Ask the daycare provider to call within minutes if your child is late
Keep a large stuffed animal in the car seat
When a child is in the car seat, move the stuffed animal to the passenger seat as a visual reminder that a child is in the car seat.
Make sure the trunk and all car doors are locked once everyone is out so that kids can’t get inside to play
Keep car keys out of the reach of children
Call 911 right away if you see a child left alone in a car