Kids and Pets in Hot Cars

By: Charlene Cristobal
June 18, 2014

To date, there have been around 12 heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles. Earlier this month, a 2-year-old girl died after being left in a hot car and just earlier this week an infant around 9 months old died for a similar reason. The high number of deaths have people saying, how and why?

Some say that a parent who doesn't normally have the child could forget because it's not part of their normal routine. Psychologist say that this is possible because of what they call "prospective memory" problems. Dr. Colleen Kelly of the Florida State University Psychology Department says that there have been prospective memory studies of pilots being distracted and forgetting routine steps.

Dr. Kelly says that even though there aren't proven tricks to help people remember things that aren't part their normal routine, she does have some suggestions. "I know people have talked about this problem, with leaving infants in hot cars and in Florida, of course, it's hot all the time," says Kelly. "But could you install something so a light came on on the dashboard [reminding you] you have an infant in a car seat. Or some kind of waning signal would come on and make noise."

People may also ask, in the case of the 9 month old infant being left in the car while her father went to work, why didn't anyone see the baby and call for help? Local residents like Joshua Stewart say that if he saw a child in a car, he would take action. "My first instinct would be to give the parent the benefit of the doubt, that they're likely nearby and probably just had to step away from the vehicle," he says. "If that was the case, I would probably stand near the vehicle for as long as I possibly could until I was fairly certain that this parent was not coming back anytime soon, and then I would immediately go find help."

Children aren't the only ones that shouldn't be left in hot cars. Pets can experience similar heat symptoms in a matter of minutes. According to Dr. Tiffany Hall of Novey Animal Hospital, a dog or cat can start experiencing critical internal damage after ten minutes.

To put some perspective on just how hot a car can get and how quickly, WCTV did an experiment with a thermometer in a hot car with the windows closed and no airflow to the car. The thermometer started at 86 degrees and in a matter of eight minutes, jumped to 120 degrees.

Veterinarians and Emergency Medical Technicians recommend that you keep yourself, your children and your pets hydrated during the summer months. Also, knowing your limits, taking breaks and always keeping a watchful eye on your loved ones.

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