Car heat can be a child death trap

AmbulanceWith a hot Christmas day and summer approaching, parents are strongly advised to be aware of the risks of leaving children and pets in cars on hot days.

‘Children can die or suffer serious brain damage if they’re left in a hot car for even a short amount of time,’ says Peter O’Meara, Professor of Rural and Regional Paramedicine at the La Trobe Rural Health School.

‘Young children are most at risk, as they quickly dehydrate,’ O’Meara says. ‘They can lapse into unconsciousness, and may never fully recover.’

The dangers of hot cars are often not recognised. On a day of 29 degrees with the car's air conditioning having cooled the interior to a comfortable 20 degrees, it takes just 10 minutes for the temperature to more than double to 44 degrees and in a further 10 minutes it triples to a deadly 60 degrees.

Here are some hints to keep your children safe:

  • Don't leave them in a car, which can heat up quickly, especially on a hot, sunny day.
  • Always lock your car and secure the keys so that your children can't get to them.
  • Warn your children about playing in the car by themselves without adult supervision.
  • Install a boot release mechanism, so that they can't get trapped in the boot.
  • Remove children from your car first, then groceries etc.  
  • Place a reminder on your dashboard so that you don’t forget a sleeping child in the car.
  • Be on alert for cars that might have an unattended child left inside.
  • If you see a child alone in a car, be sure to call 000 and get the child out ASAP.

Professor Peter O’Meara
Phone: +61 3 5444 7870