Compared to adults, children are at a much higher risk of overheating in a hot car. One reason for this is that their skin is very thin and as a result their sweat cannot adequately regulate their body temperature. Another is the fact that breathing produces humidity, which can further impede their ability to naturally cool themselves. As one would think, these factors form a lethal cocktail that can claim a baby’s life in a relatively short amount of time. The following information will expound on some of the dangers your baby could face in a hot car.
Cars Heat Up Faster Than You’d Think
Many people think that leaving their baby in the car while they run quick errand is no big deal only to come back and find that tragedy has struck. What they fail to realize is that a car parked in the shade on even a moderately hot day can easily reach temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Think you’ll be in and out before that could happen? Think again. Even leaving a baby in a hot car for a short time can be dangerous. This is because the components inside the vehicle—including the dashboard, seats, and steering wheel—heat up quickly and eventually contribute to the overall temperature.
Think of it this way: if your car is parked in the shade and the temperature outside is 100 degrees, the dashboard can easily reach 115 degrees or more while the steering wheel and seats each reach around 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Even worse, it only takes a mere ten minutes for the temperature in a hot car to rise as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering that temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to organ failure and those above 107 degrees Fahrenheit ensure death, it seems extremely shortsighted for a baby—attended or unattended—to remain in a car for that long.
The Dangers of Heatstroke and How to Avoid Them
When a baby is in a hot car they are a prime candidate for heatstroke, a form of hypothermia that occurs whenever one’s body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above. The type of heatstroke babies are prone to is a life-threatening medical emergency referred to as EHS, or extensional heatstroke. Unlike CHS (classical heatstroke), which takes a few days to build up and typically afflicts the elderly, EHS is characterized by a quick onset, often offering no preemptive indication. With EHS, the longer the child is in the car the greater the chance of heatstroke. According to a recent study, more than 800 children have died in hot cars as a result of EHS since 1990.
As mentioned earlier, the reason heatstroke sets in much quicker for infants than it does for adults is due to their age and specific developmental properties. Recent studies demonstrate that EHS can occur in as little as one hour if the car the child is occupying is parked in a particularly sunny area and double that time if they are in the shade. But seeing as the overall length of time depends on the specifics of each person’s biological makeup, which are fundamentally variable factors, why risk it at all?
Solution: Go Mobile
Rather than waiting in the car, why not take your baby with you? Achieving mobility is as simple as purchasing a lightweight stroller. Worried about the affects of the sun? Fear not, Stroller Haus stocks several strollers with retractable sun canopies that add some much-needed UV protection. Some of the strollers they offer can even be converted into car seats for extra tactility, so in addition to saving some space and warding off harmful UV rays, you’ll never have to worry about the perils your baby will face in a hot car.
Consider the Cool-down
While keeping your baby out of the heat should always be the first priority, it’s also important to consider the cool-down. After you and your baby arrive back home, giving them a cool bath is a great way to reduce their core body temperature and get them to relax. For added bathing efficiency, consider purchasing a spout cover with digital temperature indicator to ensure that the temperature is just right.