The car is not your babysitter: RCMP and health officials
Saturday, Jul 05, 2014 06:00 am
Leaving your children sitting in your vehicle while you run errands is never safe, warn city RCMP and local health officials.
Parents may be inclined to leave their sleeping children behind while they step into the shopping mall for a couple of minutes to avoid the fuss. But with hot days in the forecast, leaving them behind can pose serious health risks.
Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature in a vehicle can rise quickly, said Dr. Gerry Preddy, Alberta Health Services’ medical officer of health.
“A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times as fast as an adult’s under the same circumstances. Kids have less ability to cool themselves than adults.”
Children are particularly susceptible to heat injury because they don’t sweat as much as adults and their heat regulating mechanisms aren’t as mature, explained Preddy.
Heat exhaustion may set in when the body's temperature is two to three degrees above its normal temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. Symptoms include dehydration, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and muscle cramps.
Heat stroke is more serious and occurs when the body temperature surpasses 40 degrees Celsius. The brain's temperature control becomes overwhelmed, resulting in symptoms of dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, and/or death.
The younger the child, the higher the risk, added Preddy.
Even older kids should not be left in a vehicle, even for one minute.
“Even if they can remove clothing or drink water, a car can get so hot that really won’t protect them.”
In the span of one week last July, a three-year-old Edmonton girl and a two-year-old Ontario boy both died after being left alone in parked cars during extreme heat.
Police and health officials acknowledge that having your kids tag along with you might be a pain, but the risk of leaving them behind is too high.
“Running errands with small children can get hectic – especially taking them in and out of their car seats repeatedly. But leaving them in a vehicle that rapidly reaches unbearable temperatures even with the windows open is not an option,” said Cpl. Laurel Kading with St. Albert RCMP.
“Parents are busy and have a lot of things on their mind,” said Preddy, acknowledging it can be easy to forget a sleeping child.
He recommends leaving a purse, or something you might need when you get out of the vehicle, in the backseat as a reminder.
Officials also urge parents to keep all vehicles locked so children who may be playing in the area don’t get trapped inside. If as a bystander you see a child left in parked vehicle during extreme heat, call 911.