Doha, 19 July, 2020: With the hot and humid weather expected to continue into the coming weeks, and with temperatures rising above 40°C in most parts of the country, representatives from the Hamad Trauma Center’s Hamad Injury Prevention Program (HIPP) are providing the public with best practices to keep children safe.
“With the increasing temperatures, we want to remind the public of the increased health risks associated with children being left in hot cars. The temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 40°C hotter than it is outside. On a cool day, the temperature can be over 20°C hotter. Most of this temperature increase can happen within five minutes, putting children at great risk for high fever, dehydration, seizures, heatstroke, and even death,” said Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of the HIPP.
“The hot weather can be a danger for everyone, but for children, the dangers are magnified. A child’s temperature will rise five times faster than an adult’s temperature, especially on hot days,” added Dr. Consunji.
Dr. Consunji further explained that parked cars can get very hot, very quickly.
“Even when a car is parked in the shade, the temperature inside can rise to dangerous and even fatal levels very quickly. The younger the child, the greater their sensitivity to heatstroke, and the faster they can become dehydrated. Deaths from heatstroke can happen even when cars are parked in the shade and the windows are down. A small opening of 5 centimeters, for example, has little effect on the rising heat. The color of the seats and interior of the car also does not affect the rising heat. And large cars heat-up just as fast as small cars,” added Dr. Consunji.
“The bottom line is that it is not safe to leave a child unattended in a vehicle for any amount of time, even for a minute. If you must leave your car for any reason, always take your child with you,” said Dr. Consunji.
Dr. Consunji notes that some children have been left in hot cars unintentionally, with parents forgetting the child is there, often because he or she has fallen asleep in the backseat. He says there are things parents can do to help safeguard against this, such as keeping their mobile phone, wallet, or bag, or another item that they will need, in the backseat with the child. He also recommends placing an item belonged to the child in the front seat, to serve as a visual reminder, such as the child's lunchbox.
He says parents should always lock their vehicle doors when the car is not in use, saying children might hide inside and accidentally lock themselves in. He recommends keeping car keys out of reach of children, never allowing children to play with the car’s control buttons and encourages parents to talk to their children about safety around vehicles. He says this includes teaching the child how to use the horn in the case of an emergency.
Dr. Aisha Abeid, Assistant Director of the HIPP, said the elderly and those with existing medical conditions are also at increased risk for heat-related illnesses. She says these individuals can be more vulnerable to dehydration heatstroke, and even death when left inside a hot vehicle.