Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Never leave your child in the car and tips so you don't forget

While it may seem surprising, a change in schedule amidst a stressful day can lead someone to forget a child in a car - sometimes resulting in tragic consequences Read more about the dangers of leaving your child in the car and tips to help you not forget.

Never leave your child in the car and tips so you don't forget

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Young boy waits in the car.
Young boy waits in the car. iStock

Many of us forget things in our car all the time. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can easily happen when there’s break in your normal routine. Usually, it is a pair of sunglasses, wallet, purse, or a much needed umbrella. While it may seem surprising, a change in schedule amidst a stressful day can lead someone to forget a child in a car – sometimes resulting in tragic consequences. Regrettably, the majority of these tragedies are preventable. 

Over the past couple of months, two children died after being left in cars. In Georgia, a 22-month-old toddler perished after being left in her father’s SUV.  In Kansas, a 10-month-old infant was killed in the car of a foster parent. Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. There have been at least 626 heatstroke deaths due to children left in cars since 1998, according to a study from San Francisco State University’s Department of Geosciences.

In 2014 alone, there have been 20 of these deaths. Furthermore, these studies show that 51 percent of these deaths were due to children being “forgotten” in the car and 29 percent occurred with children playing in an unattended vehicle.

Obviously, no parent or caregiver would ever want this type of tragedy to take place and with National Heatstroke Prevention Day last month, here are some tips so this never happens to you and your family:

1. Never leave your children in the car, no matter how short the period.  Think of your car like a greenhouse. It can heat up quickly and fast.  A car’s internal temperature can reach 123 degrees (Fahrenheit) in 80 degree weather in less than one hour, found the study from San Francisco State University. Cracking the windows does little to change these results.  Heat-related deaths occur when a person’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees.  More importantly, children’s temperature regulation systems are not as efficient as adults.  They are at a higher risk for heatstroke and death because their body temperatures can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s.  

2. Always lock your car once you are sure it is empty. This way, no children can enter and be trapped in the car while you are away.    

3. Always check the entire car before you leave (front and back). The more you stick to a routine, the less likely it will be forgotten. 

4. Practice the leave behind method.  Some methods include leaving a purse or a briefcase in the backseat with the child so that neither will be forgotten.  Another method is the teddy bear method.  This involves keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat (while not in use) and when your child enters, place the stuffed animal in the passenger seat as a reminder.  Another method that I find useful is leaving a shoe in the backseat.  You might forget a teddy bear or a purse, but most likely, you won’t leave without your shoe.  More details can be found in this article from the News Press.

5. If you see a child in a locked car call 9-1-1. The sooner the intervention, the better the outcome for these children.    

Hopefully with these steps in mind, we can help prevent many heat-related fatalities. Just remember the motto of the National Weather Service: “Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat!”

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Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
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About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
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