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Kids and hot cars Make sure your child is safe during the summer

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Published August 12. 2019 09:11PM

t can happen to anyone.

You are thinking about your work day and everything you need to get done as you drive.

Or your baby has not been sleeping well and you are exhausted from the broken nights of sleep.

You make a left turn to head toward work instead of a right turn toward day care.

You pull into the parking lot, park and lock the car, and head in to start your day.

But the most important thing you need to remember is the one thing you forgot that day — your child still strapped into their car seat in your vehicle.

One mother’s story

Candice Boyle of Summit Hill, a mother of two, recently posted her own experience with this very scary mistake on Facebook as a teaching tool to help parents realize they are not alone and it can happen easily.

“I’ve seen a lot of parent shaming and I used to think how could anyone forget their children were in the car with them,” she wrote. “But I would like to share a huge stigma related secret about myself. Not once, but twice I drove to work forgetting to drop my kids off at the baby sitter.”

Boyle said the first time, her 3-year-old son spoke up when she turned off the car in her work’s parking lot.

“I was in complete shock they were still in the car,” she admitted, noting that the lack of sleep due to her young children not sleeping through the night, coupled with the pressures of making sure the kids were ready, everything was packed for the baby sitter and that she had everything she needed for work were all factors each time.

“You might think what a complete idiot, maybe even a monster, what kind of human being forgets, but the times this happened, my sleep deprivation was going on years,” Boyle said, noting that her son didn’t sleep for more than 4 hours at a time at night, and her daughter was only a few months old. “My brain was juggling so much on a ‘to do list’ that I was going over in my mind over and over on my drive to work and I was so tired that I swore I had dropped them off.

“I was not smarter than the people that walk away from their cars. I was lucky that I realized they were there,” she posted.

Boyle hopes her story will help parents who may have been in her situation at one time or another because of lack of sleep, or a big meeting that took their attention away from the very important task of dropping the kids off at the sitter’s.

Preventing a tragedy

So what can we do to make sure one misstep in parenting doesn’t turn into tragedy?

Lehigh Valley Health Network recently released information to help keep your kids safe during the hot summer months, when the interior of vehicles can turn into ovens in minutes.

“The rapid rise in the interior car temperature is critical to understand,” said Andrew Miller, DO, emergency physician with LVPG Emergency Medicine at Lehigh Valley Hospital—Cedar Crest. “In just 10 minutes, a car’s interior temperature can rise nearly 20 degrees. The rapid rise in temperature is dangerous for a child.

“A child’s body temperature rises faster than an adult. This leads to a child becoming dehydrated and suffering a heatstroke, which can cause permanent brain or organ damage, or death,” he says.

If the temperature outside is 75 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle is approximately 118 degrees, the health network reports.

Approximately 750 children have died in an overheated cars since 1998.

Look before you lock

Many people think, “This will never happen to me,” but even the most vigilant parent makes mistakes, Lehigh Valley Health Network states.

“Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding child overheating deaths shows us that, more than half of the time, children are left in the car for unintended reasons,” Miller said.

Often a forgotten child involves a distracted parent or a day when usual routine changes, such as a father taking his child to day care when the mother cannot.

When customary practice changes, it is easy to forget a quiet passenger, the health network states.

There are steps you can take to keep your child safe when you’re traveling on a hot day:

• Never leave your child alone in a car, even for a minute.

• Set a reminder to make sure no one is left in the car. (TIP: If you use Waze, a GPS Navigation app, it offers a “Child Reminder” feature. This alert appears every time your vehicle reaches its destination.)

• Use drive-through services whenever possible to avoid the need to get out of the car.

• Always place something you need for the day (cellphone, bag, briefcase or purse) in the back seat. This will help you remember to check the back seat when you arrive at your destination. Be sure to secure this item in the back of a seat pocket or with a seat belt.

• Make a habit of opening the back door and checking the back seat before locking it and walking away.

• Be alert when there is a change in your routine. Is someone else driving your child or are you driving a different way to work or child care? If someone else is driving your child, always check to make sure he has arrived safely.

• Always lock your car when you leave it to prevent a child from getting inside. According to NHTSA, nearly 30 percent of these heatstroke deaths occur when a child gains access to a vehicle. Teach your child that the car is not a toy.

• If a child is locked in a car, get him or her out right away. Call 911 for help if needed. Call 911 immediately if the child looks flushed or listless.

• Don’t let your guard down even on a day without much sun or by finding shelter under trees. Shady conditions may temporarily help, however two hours inside a vehicle can still cause heat injury or death.

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