June 10, 2013 - Children, cars, and summer temperatures are a lethal combination! Every year we hear news reports of children and animals that are left unattended in sweltering vehicles. Even the best-intentioned parents and caregivers can overlook a sleeping baby in a car and the result can be injury or even death.
On June 26th, 2013, a two-year-old boy was found dead inside a family member's vehicle that was parked just outside the garage of a home in Milton, Ontario. Although the official cause of death has not been determined, health officials say extreme heat can be dangerous for all children, especially infants.
On average, 38 children die in cars each year in the United States from heat-related deaths. On a 22°C day, the internal temperature of a car sitting in the sun with the windows rolled up can rise to over 40° in one hour due to solar radiation. Even if you crack a window, it will have very little effect on the internal temperature because solar energy is primarily heating the objects in the vehicle, not the air in the vehicle.
Young children dehydrate much more quickly than adults, and they do not have the internal temperature regulating mechanism like adults. Children and animals are more susceptible to hyperthermia, where the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate which can lead to brain damage, kidney failure and death. Children under the age of two represented more than half of all child hyperthermia fatalities in the United States from 1998 to 2009.
Symptoms of heat illness include:
- Changes in behaviour - sleepiness or temper tantrums
- Dizziness and fainting
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Extreme thirst
- Decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine
- For their safety and well-being, never leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
- Make it a habit to open the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure your child is not left behind.
- Create a visual reminder by keeping a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat when it is not being used. When your child occupies the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat so you will know your child is in the back seat.
- Make a point of 'always' calling your child's daycare centre or babysitter when you know you will not be there on a particular day.
- Keep your car locked at all times - in the garage and in the driveway - and remember to always set your parking brake.
- Keep keys and remote control openers out of your child's sight and reach.
- When a child is missing, check your vehicle and trunk immediately.
- If you see a child alone in a vehicle, Call 911 immediately. If they are hot or seem sick, get them out of the car as quickly as possible.
- Use drive-thru services when available, for example, restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners.
- Pay for gas by using your debit or credit card.
Know the Law
- It is against the law in Canada to leave a child alone in a situation where they might be injured or in danger.
- It is very dangerous to leave a child alone in a car - even if you lock the car and think you will be gone for just a few minutes.
- While leaving a child alone in a car is not against Canadian law, it is considered negligence and/or abandonment in the eyes of the law and Child Protection Services.
- Anyone who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child under the age of 10 years, so that the child's life is, or is likely to be endangered, or health is, or is likely to be permanently injured, is guilty of an offence that carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than two years.
According to the U.S. Consumer Report from 1998 to May 2011, approximately 500 children have died from hyperthermia because they were left in vehicles. Canada does not have a national tracking system and therefore statistics are not available.