Hot weather is definitely here again. Babies and children are or will die inside of hot cars. The number of children dying from being left in hot cars is on the rise. The National Safety Council is taking steps to avoid another record-setting year. They’ve developed a free online training tool that outlines the dangers of hot cars. For information, visit www.nsc.org/hotcars.

Car makers are trying to install something that will remind parents they have something left in the back seat, but it is not here, yet. Hopefully, this annual reminder will prevent more deaths.

The inside of a car can heat up extremely quickly — even when the temperature outdoors is mild. On an especially hot day, the interior of a car can heat up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 20 minutes, and within 40 minutes, it can get so hot that a child left inside a car for that length of time can die. Many parents think leaving the window of the car open slightly will keep the temperature lower but fail to realize that it will still be too hot.

Young children, especially infants are more sensitive to heat than an adult. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. A child left in a hot car can suffer from heat stress, dehydration, shock and death.

Heat stress occurs when sweat cannot evaporate quickly enough to keep the body cool. Symptoms of heat stress include muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. To “go into shock” means that the body’s blood pressure gets too low to pump oxygenated blood to major organs, such as the brain, heart, liver and kidneys, which can die or be permanently damaged.

Please remember:

• Never leave a child alone in a car — even with the windows down.

• Teach your children not to play in or around cars.

• Lock car doors when you exit them and keep your keys out of your child’s reach.

• Double-check to make sure that everyone has exited the car when you arrive at your destination. This may seem silly but remember that children have died because they had fallen asleep in their car seats and their parents did not realize that they were still in the car.

• Carry plenty of water when traveling with children.

• If your car has been parked outside on a hot day, consider placing a towel on the car seats so that it does not burn your child and consider purchasing window shades for both the front and rear windows of the car. Also, make sure that restraints, such as buckles on a car seat, are not too hot.

If you see a child (or animal) alone in a car, find the child’s parents or call 911. Get the child out of the car and spray with cool water.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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