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How to Keep Your Children Safe In and Around Cars

Did you know that even on relatively cool days, the temperature inside a parked car can get hot enough to cause heatstroke? A recent study by researchers at Stanford Medical School found that the temperature inside of a parked car with the windows rolled up can rise an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. 80 percent of of this increase occurs within the first half hour.

Citing cases of children dying from heatstroke in parked cars on days when the outside temperature was only 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), the authors of this study emphasized that it is never safe to leave children or pets in a parked car in mildly warm weather.

The researchers also noted that running the air conditioning before parking a car and leaving a window slightly open do not prevent the temperature inside the car from rising to dangerous levels.

Data collected by General Motors showed that from 1996 to 2000, there were at least 120 cases of children who died from heatstroke while trapped in parked cars, most of them under 3 years of age.

Children are especially susceptible to suffering from heatstroke because they are not able to regulate their core temperatures as efficiently as adults can.

The Nemours Foundation recommends the following guidelines to help keep your children safe around cars:

  1. Don't leave your children in a parked car even for a moment, regardless of how the outside temperature feels to you. Remember: having the air conditioning on before parking and opening the window slightly won't prevent the car interior from heating up to a dangerous temperature.

  2. Do a head count once you exit the car to make sure that no one has been left in the car.
  3. Teach your children to never play in and around parked cars. Be sure to keep your car doors locked and the car keys out of reach to prevent your children from getting into the car and locking themselves in.
  4. Teach your children to never get into a car trunk for fun. If you have a car that allows access to the trunk by folding down the back seats, be sure that your children cannot fold down the back seats by themselves.
  5. Never leave an infant to sleep alone in a car.
  6. Ensure that the surfaces of seat belts, car seats, and any other devices that your children can come into contact with aren't too hot when they get into the car. Use a shield or shade in the windows whenever you park your car in the sun.
  7. If you know or think that your children have been exposed to high temperatures by having been left or trapped in a car, seek medical attention immediately. Heatstroke can lead to permanent disability and even death if it is not addressed quickly.

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