Cars and Heatstroke: The Silent Killer

Oct 2014

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Is it ever a good idea to leave a child in a hot car?
Living in the twenty-first century has created a world in which things have become incredibly advanced in order to make life ‘simpler’ with less stress. Unfortunately, this ‘simple life’ is not always the way we dream it to be. We live in a world that has become more fast-paced and chaotic due to the pressure that society puts on us to constantly achieve and be better than everyone else.
More often than not, due to this lifestyle, we have been put in difficult situations. In particular, one of these situations is leaving children in the car. Let me create a scenario to contextualise this practice that many parents and legal guardians are guilty of:
It has been a long, hot day working in the office from 8am – 4pm. You pick up your young toddler from day-care, your child from school and you need to pop to the local super market to pick up supplies for a school cake sale that your child just made you aware of. You are exhausted, grumpy and itching to get home, so you can take your shoes off, lay back on the couch and catch up on your favourite soapie. As you pull into the uncovered car park you turn around to see that your toddler has fallen asleep in the baby car seat.
You reason with yourself that it would be okay to instruct your eldest child to keep an eye on the toddler while you quickly dash into the shops because waking up the sleeping toddler and organising the pram will add a further twenty minutes to the quick excursion you planned in your mind. You further reason with yourself that you will lock the car and make sure that the windows are closed for safety reasons. So, you climb out of the car and head into the shops feeling generally satisfied with your decision.
However, you see, there is a deep underlying issue with the above scenario. It is incredibly easy to fall into this trap of thinking, ‘it will be okay to leave the children in the car for 30 minutes, I will be as quick as possible, it should be okay, right?’ This has in many ways become a societal norm to think this way because we have been cornered into this lifestyle of getting things done as quickly as possible with zero drama. However, if you, as a parent or legal guardian, were aware of the dangers of this practice you would never leave your children in the car again. I can promise you this.
On an average day of 25 degrees Celsius, the temperature in a car can increase by 5 degrees and hour, and 70% of increase occurs within the first 30 minutes.
As adults, our bodies are more capable of adapting to heat, however, a child’s heat regulator is unable to do this at a young age. Therefore, the quick spike in heat can result in heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature surpasses 40 degrees that results in overwhelming the brain’s temperature control, causing symptoms such as dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, and/or death. Knowing this, is the risk of death worth saving 20 minutes? The answer is simple. No.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published a number of helpful tips to avoid this situation:
•    Never leave children alone in a hot car, even briefly.
•    Always check the front and back seats of the car before you lock it and leave.
•    See a child alone in a hot car? Call the police immediately. Get them out ASAP if they are in distress.
•    Put your purse, briefcase, or something else you need by the car seat so you don’t forget to check.
•    Always lock your car when it’s empty so children can’t get in without you knowing.
According to the SA Government’s website Parent SA, there is no actual law stating the age children can be left alone. However, the law is clear that parents are responsible for their children’s safety and they should not be left in dangerous situations.
At the end of the day, this is what we as society as a whole want, to keep our children safe.
Both Citton Cars and Blue Palm stand behind the protection of our children, the future of our world.