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Your Healthy Family: Leaving kids in hot car for just minutes can be deadly

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 07:32:57-04

The Kids and Car Safety Organization says around 38 children die every year from being left in hot cars across the country. But this is a tragedy that is so preventable, and a pediatric emergency medicine physician says it takes just a few steps to keep your kids safe.

"Children, in fact, they get overheated three to five times faster than adults. This can prove to be very, very deadly," Dr. Maneesha Agarwal, a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.

She said leaving a child in the car, even for a quick errand, can be dangerous. When it's 75 degrees, it takes 30 minutes for the inside of your car to hit 104 degrees, and the danger rises with the temperature. At 95 degrees outside, it takes just five minutes for the inside of the car to reach 102 degrees.

"Children, they don't do a very good job of sweating. They also dehydrate very, very quickly and they don't evaporate the heat as quickly from their skin as adults. Which makes being in a hot environment, including being in a hot car, a particularly dangerous situation for small children and infants," Dr. Agarwal said.

She said many times, exhausted parents accidentally forget their child is in the car. Health experts suggest buckling a stuffed animal in the front seat, or putting something you need in the backseat with your child as a reminder.

"Some people say put one of your shoes back there. Some people say put your phone, put your purse, put your wallet. Hopefully it'll trigger you to look back and notice, 'Oh, my child is back there, too! I need to do something,'" Dr. Agarwal said.

Dr. Agarwal said parents should call 911 immediately if there are signs of heat stroke in their child. That can include confusion, nausea, loss of consciousness, lack of sweat, fast breathing and heartbeat, or seizure.