The Summer brings a whole slew of new worries when it comes to your kids. Making sure they have enough SPF on to prevent sunburn, they're staying hydrated, and finding the right non-toxic bug repellant to keep them itch-free are just a few. But one of the biggest concerns that should be top of mind as you get into the thick of those long, hot Summer days is car safety – specifically remembering to never leave your kids in the car without you. "The temperature within a car can get can reach well over 100°F fairly quickly, especially in hotter climates and in direct sunlight," Ben Hoffman, MD, FAAP, medical director at Doernbecher Children's Hospital Tom Sargent Safety Centre in Portland, OR and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on Injury and Poison Prevention told POPSUGAR. "Younger infants sometimes have more issues with their abilities to regulate their temperature, and they may be more susceptible to heat."
Even if it's not super-hot outside, a warm day can translate into much hotter temps inside a car. "Cars are heavy and sit on concrete," says Dr. Hoffman. "Concrete and asphalt absorb heat and then radiate it up. The metal in cars and fabric of the seats absorb even more heat, and the windows just allow heat to get in. So even if it's 70°F outside, if it's a sunny day a car temperature can reach over a 100°F degrees within an hour." Leaving a child alone in a hot car puts them at risk of health-related problems from dehydration, to more serious illnesses like a heat stroke. And while you might think those sun blinds you have in your car are a deterrent for the sun, they're only helping to filter out UV light to protect your kids from sunburn — they do little in minimizing heat absorption, says Dr. Hoffman.
And it's not just kids you have to be careful about when it comes to a hot car. Pets are just as vulnerable, and like small children, their inability to communicate that they are hot could cause serious health issues. "If you bring your dog along with you in the car, do not ever leave them alone in the car without you," John de Jong, DVM, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association told POPSUGAR. The temperature inside a parked car can rise nearly 30 degrees in 20 minutes, even in temperatures as low as 72°F and with the windows cracked." Signs of heat stress in dogs include things like anxiousness, excessive panting and drooling, abnormal tongue and gum colouring, unsteadiness, general restlessness, and collapsing. "Minimize risks while driving by making sure the car is sufficiently air conditioned and your pet is travelling in a secure carrier, crate, or harness," Dr. de Jong says.
If you're worried about forgetting your child in the car, there are quite a few safety measures built into cars and car seats that provide reminders to check the backseat, like sensor alarms and dashboard reminders, but Dr. Hoffman says there's been no research indicating that these are proven to work. You are the first and last line of defence when it comes to making sure to not leave your child unattended in the car. "Parents can't be too careful about this," says Dr. Hoffman, "Anything that they feel might help them remember to take their kids out of the car is probably not a bad idea."