June 15, 2005
With the recent heat, we want to remind you about what can happen if you leave your children or your pets unattended in a hot car.
"It can really happen to anyone at any time," explained SAFE KIDS Coordinator Emily Lyster. It is something that happens all too often during the summer months. "The incidents of children dying in hot cars is actually an area in childhood injury where the trends are going up instead of down"
Heat exhaustion or even heat stroke are common results when children are left insulated in a hot car. This year there have already been five child fatalities in vehicles due to hyperthermia and experts are doing their best to warn parents against leaving their kids unattended in a car, even for a moment.
"You never know if you might run in to some delays or trouble and your child will end up in the car for much longer than you ever anticipated, so really the best idea is just don't do it," said Lyster." Never leave your child alone in the car."
Dr. Chris Holstege with UVA's Emergency Medical Department agrees, adding "in ten minutes it can heat up by 19 degrees, so if you left and it was 90 degrees outside, it can be 110 degrees in the car when you get back, and having the window cracked just won't do it. You won't have enough circulation to keep the temperature down."
On warm days, temperatures inside a car can easily reach over 100 degrees, making it a dangerous situation not only for children, but for pets as well.
Sgt. Mike Farruggio with Charlottesville's Animal Control says his department deals with animals being left in hot cars on a weekly basis. "Every week we have at least one call about it, where someone leaves their animal in a car. When the air temperature is that hot in the car and they're panting it just doesn't work."
Farruggio's advice to pet owners: "Don't leave your dog or your cat in the car at all for any amount of time when the temperature is over 80 degrees [outside]."
That rule applies to children as well. Leaving a child inside a car, even for five minutes, is illegal, and state and local prosecutors can charge the adult responsible with child endangerment.
Experts also recommend that you park in the shade and use a sunshade to keep your car cooler. Keep an emergency kit and some water in your car as well.