The Health Dangers of Leaving a Child in a Car

Have you ever felt tempted to leave your child inside a car? Believe it or not, some parents have this habit, especially when doing a quick errand. From running into the ATM, picking up the dry cleaning, or making a quick purchase, parents choose to leave their child behind to escape the inconvenience of taking the child in and out of the car.

Each year, we hear news stories about parents losing their baby at a gas station or a stranger who found a baby trapped inside a car in the middle of a parking lot. All these incidents point to one thing — bad parenting. Leaving a child inside a car is just as deadly as it may sound. In fact, it’s never acceptable to leave a child alone in the car, even for a few moments.

Meanwhile, some parents are overly critical of their family’s safety. Some cars have specialized baby seats and car seat alarms, while others install a dashcam to discourage theft and car prowls. All these things give them the peace of mind that their children and family members remain safe.

It’s never right to prioritize your own convenience over a child’s safety. That said, this article will discuss the dangers of leaving children in the car, its health effects, and ways to protect them.

Why parents leave children in cars

It’s easy to know the reason parents think it’s perfectly okay to leave a child alone in a car, even for a short amount of time. The most common reason is to do a quick errand. Meanwhile, others unknowingly leave the child behind because of short-term memory or distractions (e.g., looking after other children or carrying a bunch of groceries).

A child who is sound asleep is also another reason parents leave a child in the car. Of course, no parent wants to disturb a sleeping child, so they use this as a good reason to leave the child behind. Meanwhile, other parents are too confident that their child will never willingly leave the car without them.

Leaving a child in the car increases the likelihood of being distracted or delayed by unexpected situations, such as bumping into an old friend, long lines, and other interruptions. As a result, the parent leaves the child in the car for a longer time than expected. What was supposed to be a quick errand may turn into a long ordeal for the child.

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The dangers of leaving children in the car

Every year, several children below age three die after being left inside a vehicle. The most common reasons are heatstroke and dehydration. Overheating of the body (hyperthermia) poses a serious risk in warmer temperatures.

An enclosed vehicle can reach 19°F in a few minutes and 34°F after half an hour. The rising temperature of an enclosed car is even worse for children since their bodies overheat three to five times faster than adults, making them more vulnerable to heatstroke and hyperthermia.

In colder climates, leaving children in the car increases the risk of hypothermia, where the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Children have a small body size, making it difficult for them to produce sufficient body heat. When this happens, the child may exhibit exhaustion, confusion, shivering, drowsiness, numbness, and frostbite. All these signs can happen quickly in cold temperatures.

Leaving a child in the vehicle with the engine running is still risky. Although it reduces the chances of hypothermia, keeping the engine on exposes them to hyperthermia. Most vehicles don’t have a temperature control feature, and parents often strapped the child into the car seat, restricting them from adjusting the temperature.

Ways to protect your child

While there are plenty of devices to remind parents that there’s a kid in the car, it’s still important to take extra measures to prevent you from leaving them behind. When strapping a child into the car seat, make sure to place your belongings near them. This way, you’ll immediately see them once you open the door and grab the item.

When parking the car, open the back door to have a habit of checking if someone is in the backseat. You should also lock the car after reaching the destination so children can’t get in independently. Also, keep the keys out of their sight and reach.

The risk of leaving a child alone in the car, even for a few seconds, is never worth it. Our children are our own responsibilities, so it’s important to be attentive and keep a close eye on them. All these measures can go a long way in ensuring the overall safety of our children wherever we go.

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