Hot cars aren’t cool: Tips to keep your family safe in warm weather

This weekend’s warm weather reminded me that it’s time for a very important message: Never leave your children alone in the car.

I know why it happens. Your child is sleeping, and you don’t want to wake him or her. You’ll only be in the store a minute. But let’s be realistic. What you think will be a minute usually turns into 10 or 15 minutes. Did you know the temperature in a car can rise nearly 20 degrees in the first 10 minutes? According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Board (NHTSB), even when the temperature only is 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can get up to 110 degrees.

Follow these tips to help keep your family safe in warm summer weather:

  1. Never, even for a minute, leave your child alone in the car. There are no exceptions to this rule, and it’s even illegal in some states.
  2. Children overheat more quickly than an adult. In fact, according to the NHTSB, a child’s body temperature rises 3 to 5 times more quickly than an adult. No amount of time alone in a car is safe for a child. High body temperature can cause illness and death.
  3. The car is not a playground. Don’t allow your kids to play in it. Way too many things can go wrong.
  4. Perhaps you are the one who always does the “day care drop off” in the morning, but today someone else is doing it for you. Have him or her check in with you after leaving the day care center. This helps ensure that your child actually was dropped off and not accidentally left in the car.
  5. Check your car’s back seat before you lock the doors and walk away. Make it a habit. You may think you’d never forget your child in the car, but it happens.

A special note to pet owners: I love my dog, and she is a huge fan of car rides. But when I run errands, Nanook stays home. Pets also can quickly become overheated, even with the windows cracked. It’s best to leave your pet home, where he or she has access to water and a cooler environment.

If you see a child alone in a car, I encourage you to take action. I mean it. Call 911. If the child seems to be distressed or is not responding to you, quickly try to get him or her out of the car and cooled down. You may be saving that child’s life.

Parents, post a comment and share how you keep your children cool in warm weather.

Jennifer Hammel~ Jennifer Hammel, director, Child Abuse Prevention Fund

The Child Abuse Prevention Fund is a fundraising initiative of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Since 1988, the organization has distributed more than $10 million to support community-based child abuse prevention initiatives throughout Wisconsin.

Read more blog posts by Jennifer Hammel.

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