The dangers of leaving children in cars during the summer

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the temperatures rise, so do the dangers for children in the summer. While it may be easy to leave a child in the car while running to a store, doing so in the summer can be deadly.  

Springfield Fire Commissioner, B.J. Calvi, told 22News “People say ‘oh I’m just gonna run in for a few minutes’ and they don’t realize how fast the car can heat up.”

Children in hot cars can suffer from heat stroke and potentially death, even with the windows rolled down.

“It can happen to anyone, anytime, and significantly quicker than what anyone thinks,” said Dr. Shuana Ejtehadi from Baystate Health Center.

Dr. Ejtehadi told 22News that studies continue to show that the heat continues to be deadly even with the windows down.

“When it’s 80-degrees outside within 10 minutes your car will be up to 100 degrees. Within 20 minutes it’ll be up to 110,” said Commissioner Calvi.

22News tested this and put a thermometer in a car on an 80-degree day. Within 10 minutes the temperature went up to 116-degrees.

The body, especially the small bodies of children, can’t handle that high of heat.

“What happens with heat stroke is the temperature gets higher and higher and then the regulatory center in the brain, the part that controls the temperature in the body slowly starts to shut down because it’s too hot to function,” said Dr. Ejtehadi.

Dr. Ejethadi told 22News symptoms of heat stroke that people can look out for.

  • Low energy or lethargy.
  • An altered mental state or “not acting like themselves.”
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Lack of sweating.

Commissioner Calvi said if someone believes a child is in distress, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“If the child looks in distress and you think you can get the child out, I would suggest you do that,” Commissioner Calvi said. “Time is of the essence in these situations.”

To cool a child down if you believe they’re suffering from heat stroke, doctors recommend using a spray bottle or water bottle on the child and fanning them. Also bringing them into the shade to get them cool as quickly as possible.

“No parent intentionally leaves their child in the car. It tends to happen when parents are out of their routine,” said Dr. Ejtehadi.

“Instead of going to the house first and then daycare, they go to daycare and then the house, and then they forget that the kid is back there.”

Dr. Ejtehadi recommends always taking your child inside with you. As well as leaving a cell phone or purse in the back seat with a child so parents have to check the back seat before going to work. And lastly, teaching children to not play in cars so they don’t get accidentally locked inside.

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