Vehicular Heat Stroke Awareness

It is a heartbreaking headline that we see each and every summer…”Infant dies after being left in car.” On average, 37 children die each year in the US as a result of being left in a hot vehicle, and in 2018, a record 52 children died from heat-related deaths after being left in hot cars. As a parent, it is gut-wrenching and nauseating to even consider that such a tragedy could ever happen to you, but in the vast majority of these cases, these tragedies strike in very loving, caring and “typical” families. Some may say, “I could never forget my child, that just wouldn’t happen,” but can you guarantee that?

How many mornings do you leave your house and in a forgetful moment, think, “Did I close the
garage/turn off the coffee pot/lock the door?” How many times have you been preoccupied with
thinking about a major presentation on the way to work? Have you gotten on your phone on your drive into work and become consumed with your conversation? And how many times has your usual morning routine been rerouted for one of a hundred different reasons? It is typically a change in usual routine or a distraction that can be the culprit of forgetting about precious cargo. Perhaps Daddy is in charge of morning drop off when he usually just heads into work, or maybe you have a sick little one who is staying with grandma for the day, and she has plans to run errands all day and forgets that the child is in her care. Accidents can happen, even to those who think, “That would never happen to me.”

Here is your science lesson for the day...on a sunny day, cars are a perfect demonstration of the greenhouse effect. The longer wavelengths of light from the sun get into your car by passing through the windows, but the energy and heat from these wavelengths cannot get out of your car. These trapped wavelengths of light are what raise the temperature inside your car. This is why your car will ALWAYS, no matter the time of the year, be hotter on the inside than it is outside when the sun is shining. It is estimated that the temperature in your car can rise by 20 degrees within 10 minutes. On a typical summer day here in the south, it is possible for your car to get to 125 degrees in a very short period of time. Even if you have the windows cracked, the temperature inside your car will still become dangerous very quickly.

You know the feeling of getting into your car at the end of the work is SWELTERING within just a few seconds. I know my kiddos, and let's be honest even myself, are screaming to “get the air on,” just as soon as we get into the car during the summer. For children, their body temperature rises about 3-5 times faster than ours as adults which is why hot cars become even more dangerous for our littlest family members. Overheating for children can happen within minutes, and this can rapidly lead to heat stroke and death.

When thinking about how to prevent this tragedy from occurring, here are a few suggestions:

  • Place something that you need for the day in the backseat with your child. This could be your purse or briefcase or even the shoe from your non-driving foot. Make it so that you have to open the back door before you can go about your day.
  • Have something of your child’s in the front seat with you such as their diaper bag to serve as a reminder that they are in the car with you.
  • Place a big stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When you place your child in their car seat, move that stuffed animal to the front seat with you, again to serve as a visual reminder that your child is in the car.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a campaign called “Where’s Baby? Look before you lock,” and encourages parents to get in the habit of ALWAYS looking in the back seat before walking away from the car.
  • Children are curious and love to play hide and seek games, so if your child is ever missing while at home, make sure that your car is one of the first places you look. They may think the car makes a great hiding place, but getting accidentally trapped in the car on a hot day could have a terrible outcome.
  • Ask that your daycare or child’s caregiver always calls you if your child hasn’t arrived by a set time during the work week.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was technology that could let a driver know when a child was present in the car? Perhaps a device that connected to the buckle on the car seat and could also recognize if the car engine was turned off and then alert a parent that a child was still present in that buckled car seat? Creating safer environments for children when it comes to cars is nothing new to the auto industry. The LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system) was created as a way to more safely secure car seats. Trunk releases on the inside of the car are present on all vehicles, and by 2018, all cars were required to have backup cameras. All of these mandates by car manufactures were put into place as lifesaving measures to protect our children. So, perhaps a similar device will be created that alerts the
driver when a child is in their car seat, but at this time, no such technology exists, so for now parents must consider the above recommendations.

The idea of forgetting about your child in a hot car is not something any parent wants to think about. We may think that we would never make such a deadly mistake and it is simply not possible that you could “forget” your child, but I can almost guarantee this is exactly what parents who have experienced this devastation thought the day before their world came crashing down. I encourage all parents to be proactive in reminding yourself when children are in the car. Many of the steps above require no additional work on your part, but could save your child’s life.

Make sure you pick up a hang tag for your rear view mirror at Baton Rouge Clinic Pediatrics!

Mindy Calandro, MD


Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this

03 Jul 2019

By Mindy Calandro, MD

Recent Articles more articles

Mamas Never Get Vacation, Not Even at the Beach!

in Get Out of Town, Things To Do, Family Life, Mari Walker, Summer Fun

Packing up and hitting a beach somewhere along the Gulf seems to be an annual event for most middle- and upper-class families in our area, at least according to my Facebook feed. This year, we decided to join the fray, meeting my in-laws from Virgini

Is This Our New Normal?

in Family Life, Joy Holden

Barry, oh Barry. You arrived late and then left without making much of an impression. And we are grateful! Your tardiness and lack of effort were quite welcome to those of us still suffering from storm shock. Let me just say, on behalf of all the 201

Chocolate Milk Burps, Gummy Bears and the Joy of Childhood

in Crafts and Cooking, Things To Do, Family Life, Amy Delaney

Raise your hand if you LOVE that gummy bear commercial where a group of distinguished looking grown-ups sit around in a boardroom discussing how their gummy bears are “gooder” than others.

Finding My Zen Through Reading

in Kelly Carmena, Health and Wellness, Family Life, Summer Fun, Turn the Page

Lately, I have struggled to find time for training. Between the closing of my daycare, work, and packing for an eventual move to a new house, I have had very little time for myself. In fact, much of my free time has been spent KonMori’ing my current

Featured Listings more listings

Celebration Station

Celebration Station

in Party Venues

Celebration Station parties are a great time for everyone. With each party, you and your child's birthday party guests can feast on pizza, play arcade games, score some tickets, win prizes, ride the go-karts and bumper cards, ride and play for hours

St. James Episcopal Day School

in Private Schools

St. James Episcopal Day School offers an exceptional education for three-year-olds through fifth graders. Named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2009 and 2015, St. James provides a foundation of academic excellence and a spiritual foundation.

Skate Galaxy

Skate Galaxy

in Party Venues

Five packages to choose from; roller skating; laser tag; rockwall climbing; 2-3 hour private party room; pitchers of soft drinks; pizza: pepperoni, sausage, or cheese; Bluebell Ice Cream cups; skate theme plates, cups, napkins; cake knife; Skate Gala

Inspire Charter Academy

in Charter Schools

We believe children with a strong moral character and excellent college preparation will excel in any path they choose. We achieve this through our program built on the pillars of moral focus, academic excellence, personal responsibility and parental