With another hot week ahead in Hamilton, local doctors and first responders are urging the public to ensure that no children are left alone in cars.
“No child should ever be left alone in a car, not even for one minute,” says Dr. Anthony Crocco, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster Children’s Hospital site.
Last summer, Dr. Crocco challenged himself to sit inside a hot car to demonstrate the risks to children. He broadcast the experience live on Hamilton Health Sciences’ Facebook page, drawing an audience of tens of thousands. He lasted just 15 minutes in the car before removing himself to avoid any serious symptoms.
“It doesn’t take long to overheat in a car, and even less so for children,” says Dr. Crocco. “Even in milder weather, in the time it takes to go get a coffee or run an errand, a child can become dangerously overheated.”
The Hamilton Paramedic Service (HPS) says that the discomfort an adult might feel inside a hot car is magnified in kids, since their bodies are smaller and unable to make changes to their environment.
“No child should ever be left alone in a car, not even for one minute.”
“As we age, we learn that when we we’re exposed to high temperatures, we can adjust, whether it’s by removing layers, drinking water, turning up the A/C or changing the environment we are in,” says Dave Thompson, paramedic superintendent for HPS. “A young child strapped in a car seat inside a hot car isn’t capable of making these changes, which is why it’s so dangerous.”
Additionally, Thompson says car seats can act as an insulator. Plastics don’t breathe or allow air movement, preventing the body’s natural cooling mechanisms from helping to lower body temperature, compounding an already hot environment.
Dr. Crocco cautions everyone to remember that even outside of cars, children are prone to heat-related illness. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include sweating, hot and flushed skin, rapid pulse, hallucinations, confusion, and even death. Parents who are concerned that their child may be experiencing heat-related symptoms should go to their nearest kid-friendly emergency department right away. In the Hamilton area, McMaster Children’s Hospital is the go-to emergency department for children 17 and under.
Hamilton Police Services says that anyone who sees a child inside a hot car should call 9-1-1 immediately.
“Every year, Hamilton Police respond to calls for children and pets left unattended in vehicles during hot weather,” says Deputy Chief Dan Kinsella of Hamilton Police Services. “We want to remind parents and pet owners to make sure all children and family pets have left the car when you reach your destination. If you witness a child or pet in distress – call 9-1-1 immediately.”