The death of a toddler who was accidentally forgotten in a car earlier this week serves as a reminder of the dangers of someone left behind in a hot vehicle.
Dr. Matthew Harris, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Northwell’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center, said people should always respond and take action in a potential emergency with children left in a car.
“One of the things is that if you’re walking through the mall parking lot and you see a child in a car, this is an emergency,” he said. “As cars have become more efficient, they may get hotter faster. This is a medical emergency. Break the windows because time is of the essence. Get them out of the heat, then initiate care.”
The Centers for Disease Control says that after just 20 minutes on an 80-degree day, the inside of a vehicle can reach 109 degrees. After 40 minutes, it can reach 118 degrees.
Harris said that with climate change, we can expect more frequent hot days.
“Sustained exposure can essentially cause heat stroke in children and at-risk adults,” he said. “That likely impedes the ability to breathe; they become acutely dehydrated, and altered. It is not a peaceful moment.
“It tends to happen tends with kids who are not old enough to vocalize,” he said.
Extra vulnerable are children who are using Ritalin or other stimulants, which affect their metabolism. The drug can raise the child’s body temperature, making them vulnerable to heatstroke under hot conditions.
Harris also said that people need to be aware of heat and its effects on children in general, at a beach or playing near concrete, which can heat up quickly.
With cars, “Everyone is busy, everyone is stressed,” he said. “It’s all the mor reason to look in the back seat. These are totally preventable deaths. I can understand a new parent, a new job” getting distracted. He recommends always checking the backseat, and adding alarms to remind people to check for young ones.
The number of child hot car deaths for 2022 was reported at 33. The National Safety Council said that, on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. In both 2018 and 2019 a record number of 53 children died after being left in a hot vehicle
A 14-month-old toddler died Monday after she was left in a car for eight hours when her grandmother went to work and forgot to take her to day care.
Toddler Dies in Greenlawn Grandmother’s Hot Car