With summer here, things are heating up – especially cars left out in the sun on a hot day. Today, I want to park some information with you about the dangers of young children being left in a hot car.

Believe it or not, a car interior can heat up by more than 20 degrees in about ten minutes when left in the sun. This can start to happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also important to know that a child’s body can heat up three-to-five times faster than an adult’s. If the temperature inside a car reaches 104 degrees, a child’s major organs may start to shut down. At 107 degrees, death can occur from heat stroke.

What can you do to prevent this? Start by always checking the back seat and making sure all children are out of the car before you lock it and walk away. A great idea is to put a cellphone, bag or purse in the back seat every time you load your child in the car. This will force you to check the back seat when you get to your destination. A great expression to keep in your head is “Look before you lock!”

It is also possible a child may climb into your car when it is parked, but not locked, and then lock themselves inside. Keep your car locked when it is parked. Make sure children do not have easy access to your car keys, which should always be stored out of your children’s reach. It is also a good idea to keep rear fold-down seats closed so children cannot crawl into the trunk from inside the car.

In fact, car trunks should never be used for games, such as hide and seek. Better yet, teach your children that cars are off-limits for play at all times.

If you should come upon a child alone in a car and you are concerned, please call 911 for help whether it is hot out or not. Hopefully tips like this will drive home the importance of never leaving a child locked in a parked car, especially on a hot summer’s day.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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