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Health Team

Doctor: 'Put down the cellphones, groceries' until children are removed from hot cars

Posted June 21, 2018 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:18 a.m. EDT

With hot summer weather taking over the Triangle, it’s important to remember a sobering statistic about hot car deaths. Each year in the United States, between 30 and 60 children die after they are left unattended in a hot vehicle.

Most adults can’t stand to sit in a hot car, but babies and young children are especially sensitive to heat.

“The younger a child is, the higher risk they are of developing hyperthermia and heat-related injuries,” said Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, a pediatrician with the Cleveland Clinic. “Young children have larger body surface areas compared to their overall weight and they also have less efficient cooling mechanisms. Their bodies are warmer to begin with, and they don’t sweat as much.”

Giuliano commented on a recent study in the journal Temperature that focused on how long it takes a car to reach deadly temperatures in hot weather.

Researchers tested different vehicle types in various degrees of sun and shade over a three-day period.

In 100-degree temperatures, all vehicles reached triple digit levels, even if they were in shade. That kind of heat can lead to heat stroke or death for a small child.

Often, the error of leaving a child unattended in a hot car involves the caregiver forgetting that the child is there. Being vigilant and extra attentive is vital in avoiding a deadly mistake.

“Put down the cellphones, the calls, the text messages, the groceries. All of that can wait until the child is safely inside the home or wherever other destination you’re going to,” Giuliano said.

To remind themselves about a child in the backseat, caregivers can leave their house keys, purse or wallet on the floor in front of the child. Parents can also consider keeping a stuffed toy visible in the front of the car as a reminder.

Giuliano said children should never be left alone in a car for any reason.