DOTHAN, Al. (WTVY) Situations like the one Mary Esther, Florida, where an infant was left in a hot car for approximately eight hours, remind us of the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car. But according to experts, eight hours is more than enough. Around fifteen minutes can literally mean the difference between life and death.
It's a real danger, children being left in hot cars. Experts say most of those deaths happen between June and August. This is peak time when the weather’s the warmest; though tragedies like the one in Okaloosa County can happen anytime. Dothan fire department Battalion Chief Chris Etheredge says even leaving your small child unattended for a few minutes can have deadly ramifications.
"We think, I’m just going to run in for a minute, I’ll crack the window's everything will be okay, and it's not. The temperature rises very quickly inside of a car", said Etheredge.
A car’s temperature can rise drastically in a short amount of time. Even fifteen to twenty minutes can be critical. Southeastern Pediatrics Dr. Lauren Morris said that fifteen minutes can make a difference and before succumbing to death, symptoms include becoming nauseous, vomiting, and seizures. Even if children are removed, the long term effects can be devastating especially neurologically as well as damage to their inner organs.
"When a child is left in a hot car, heat stroke can occur in as little as fifteen minutes. Basically their body temperatures rise to anything above 104 to 107 internally, and that's what causes death", said Dr. Morris.
Dr. Morris recommends taking several steps in helping a child left in a vehicle. She recommends things like calling the nearest fire department, calling for help, as a last resort breaking the glass on the other side of the child to avoid glass shards getting onto the child. However one thing stressed is not putting a cold cloth over the child. It can have the opposite effect, of what it was intended to do.
"You have to spritz them with some water, not coat them with wet towels because that conducts the heat, try to if you can get a hold of ice. Put cool ice packs underneath the armpit and the groin", said Dr. Morris.
Etheredge said; use common sense before leaving your car. A quick trip to the back seat can make the difference. There are apps that can remind you there is a child in the car. Experts also recommend parents put their purse, wallet or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder.
"Look before you leave. Make sure that all the children are out of the car", said Etheredge.