Family HealthParenting Tips

Baby on Board: Heat safety for cars

It’s officially summertime here in Central Texas, which means temperatures are soaring into the 100s on a daily basis. Today (Wednesday) the high in Austin is projected to be 100o Fahrenheit, but the heat index is expected to reach 121o Fahrenheit, which is dangerously high. For children left in cars, this extreme heat can mean hyperthermia has the potential to strike within minutes.

Even if it’s 70o Fahrenheit outside the car, within 30 minutes the temperature inside can reach 104o Fahrenheit. During a Texas summer, when it’s already 100o Fahrenheit outside of the car, leaving your child or pet in the car for even a few minutes can lead to serious health consequences for them. A child’s body overheats 3-5 times faster than the adult body, placing them at even more risk for serious harm when left in hot cars. In 2016 alone, 39 deaths were attributed to vehicular stroke from hot cars.

Often, these deaths are an accident.  Studies show that the majority of these deaths are complete accidents; they happen when attentive parents unknowingly leave their children (55%) or when children climb into the car on their own, without the parents knowing (28%). What’s even more tragic is the majority of these deaths are those of children 3 years and younger.

While it a sad fact that accidents are bound to happen, parents can take several precautions to improve car heat safety in their families:

  • Look before you lock. Make a habit of opening the car’s back doors every time you exit the car, to double check for kids or pets.
    • Tip: Rear-facing car seats are especially important to check, since you can’t see the baby in the rear view mirror.
  • Create a reminder to check the backseat. Put something like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID, or briefcase in the back seat so that you have to check it when you park and leave your car.
    • Tip: for a rear-facing car seat, keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat for a visual reminder.
  • Use the drive-thru. If you’re going out for food or coffee and don’t want to bring the car seat carrier in with you, try to either use the drive thru or choose another stop.
  • Make sure your car stays locked while at home in the driveway or garage. This prevents a child from climbing into a hot car to play, and potentially shut themselves inside.

For more car safety tips related to heat, check out this fact sheet from KidsandCars.org. To learn more about family health and parenting tips and advice, visit us at Any Baby Can and register for one of our affordable parenting classes, or give us a call at 512.454.3743.

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