In the past two years, more than 100 children have died of pediatric vehicular heatstroke in hot cars. In other words, 100 children have died inside a hot car.
It’s a tragedy that can unfortunately happen to anyone.
Injury prevention experts say pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths most commonly happen when families are out of their normal routine, which is a reality for almost everyone right now with children home from school, many parents working from home, and limited childcare.
This leaves parents and caregivers trying to decide what's safest for their kids when there's limited childcare-should you take them inside the store with you and possibly expose them to COVID-19? Or should you just leave them in the car?
The Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's says to always avoid leaving your child in the car. This is why:
- Interiors of cars heat up and can reach 125 degrees quickly. A car interior can go from 60 to 80 degrees in just 10 minutes. It does not have to be very hot outside for children to die. Children have died in hot cars when it's only been 60 degrees outside.
- If an infant or toddler is left inside a vehicle and their core temperature reaches 104 degrees, heat exhaustion will lead to intense thirst, weakness, dizziness and headache that could cause brain damage. If the child's core temperature reaches 107 degrees, convulsions, brain damage and death can occur.
According to KidsAndCars.org, in the first seven months of 2020, 14 children across the United States have died in hot cars.
That number is down significantly from the record-setting years of 2018 and 2019, but still alarming.
In the past, a lot of pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths were completely accidental and happened as the result of parents leaving their children in the car for too long. In several cases, parents forgot to drop their child off at daycare on the way to work.
But with COVID-19 and people working from home, that risk has been reduced.
This year, nearly half of the children that have died of vehicular heatstroke across the United States died after getting trapped inside a hot car.
The assumption is that vehicles are more likely to be parked at home, often unlocked, rather than driven to an office. That's why it's so important we make sure we're keeping our vehicles locked when at home and that we keep our keys out of children's reach.
Here are some other helpful tips to keep your children safe:
- Never leave your child alone in a car-not even for a minute. It might seem like a good idea during these challenging times, but it's not worth the risk. It doesn't take long for a car to heat up to dangerous levels in just a short amount of time.
- It’s also easy to get distracted or delayed in a store, especially with the special precautions being taken by many retailers to help maintain proper social distancing, which might mean longer than anticipated time in a store.
- Keep car doors and trunks locked and keep key fobs out of reach. Kids might think playing inside a car would be a fun activity, but they could easily get trapped inside. Lock your car doors and remind your neighbors (even those without kids).
- Create reminders. During the pandemic we're all distracted and we're all experiencing different levels of stress. Studies show that when we experience stress, it's easy to become forgetful.
- Keep a stuffed animal in your child's car seat when it's empty and move the toy to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat. You can also place your cell phone, briefcase, or purse in the backseat when traveling with your child as a reminder.
- Teach your child what to do if they ever were to get locked in a car. Show them how to manually unlock the doors. Another good tip is to teach children that if they were locked in to honk the car horn repeatedly until someone comes to help them get out.
- Finally, take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. And if possible, rescue the child from the vehicle after receiving emergency instructions.