What you should do if you see a child locked in a hot car
"Children dehydrate significantly quicker than grownups"
By Sarah Carson and Jenny Ky
January 06 2020
Reports of kids and animals trapped in sweltering cars have become all too common during hot spells, placing our loved ones in serious risk.
In one year alone, Ambulance Victoria responded to a staggering 1,500 callouts for people locked in cars, with 95 per cent of those involved aged under 13 - and in the peak of summer, they saw an average of six calls a day.
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It's a warning some parents still choose to ignore - so as the temperature soars, authorities are reminding us that leaving kids in cars can kill.
"I think people don't realise that on a hot day, it might be 30 degrees outside, but the temperature inside the car can reach up to 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature, and this can happen in as little as seven to eight minutes," said Sarah Hunstead, founder of CPR Kids.
"Children also dehydrate significantly quicker than grownups, and they're at much more risk because they can't move to a cooler area when they're strapped in their seats.
"Because that car can heat up so quickly, you just can't take that risk and move away from them. You need to be able to take your child with you."
Car safety tips
Fatal distraction occurs when parents unknowingly leave their child in a car. It is a condition that impacts short-term memory capacity and can lead to serious injury or even death.
"Often it can be because it's a change in your normal routine," Hunstead said.
"Some of the things you can do are, for example, you can leave your handbag in the backseat so you have to turn around and have a look.
"Make sure that you open up the backdoor after you part, and make it a habit to do that. A lot of the newer cars have got sensors inside them that will actually alarm if there's movement inside after you've locked your car.
"You can also put their lunchbox or a toy in the front seat to remind you as well.
"If your baby is in a capsule, don't cover the capsule with a muslin or a cloth - make sure they're in nice, loose-fitting cool clothing.
"Check the temperatures of the seats and the belts, and even the metal parts of the buckle.
"Use window shades, and if you can travel in the evening, do so. But most importantly, make sure that air is circulating, give them lots of fluids and take lots of breaks as well."
Signs of heatstroke
"Initially, they might become quite confused or irritable, they might be crying and inconsolable," Hunstead said.
"This leads on to vomiting, and their skin becomes quite red and hot and dry, because they can't sweat like we do.
"Their breathing can become quite rapid, and this will quickly progress to them being floppy and unconscious - and then we need to do CPR."
What to do in an emergency
"If you find a child who's been left unattended, send somebody to try and find their parents," Hunstead said.
"If the child is in distress, always immediately call 000. If you can safely remove the child from the car, move them to a cooler area, take off their clothing, and then we need to cool their body.
"If water is available, spray them, sponge them down, or put ice packs in their armpits or groin, whatever you've got available at the time to keep them cool."
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