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Health care officials remind everyone of the dangers of leaving kids in a hot car

(Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Health care officials at Primary Children’s Hospital are warning parents never to leave their kids in the hot car for any period of time, especially when the heat is breaking records across Utah. Not even for a minute. 

Workers at Primary Children’s placed a car in the direct sun while holding their press conference about the dangers of leaving children in a hot car. In a short amount of time, the temperature inside the car reached over 120 degrees. 

Community Health Manager Jessica Strong said this kind of heat would be dangerous for anyone, but especially so for small children.

(A digital thermometer placed on the windshield outside of Primary Children’s Hospital. The interior reached more than 120 degrees in a short time. Photo: Paul Nelson)

“A child’s body temperature will increase three to five times faster than an adult’s,” Strong said. “It’s even more dangerous for a child.”

She said many people justify leaving kids in a car by saying they were only going to go inside for a short time. Or, they may believe the car won’t become so hot if a window is partially rolled down.

Strong said, “Cracking the windows of a car does very little to change the temperature inside the vehicle.”

However, one of the biggest reasons behind parents leaving their kids in the car is that they simply forgot the child was there. Strong said that’s one reason why they repeat this same message every year.

“We know that studies from neurologists and psychologists that our brains are programmed to go into ‘autopilot’ whenever it can,” she said.

Luckily, 2020 saw one of the lowest numbers of heatstroke deaths related to hot cars, with only 25 happening across the U.S. However, Strong believes the pandemic may have been a reason behind this drop, and that the numbers would be much higher in regular circumstances.

(Jessica Strong with Primary Children’s Hospital shows a specialized lanyard people can wear, reminding them they have a child in the back. Photo: Paul Nelson)

“We know that our national numbers in 2018 and 2019 were higher than in previous years. For those few years, we were seeing 50+ fatalities,” according to Strong.

Officials recommend that drivers leave something in the back seat if they’re transporting a small child.  That way, the person will see the child when they retrieve that item. 

Plus, Strong said there are special lanyards, which they call Baby Safety Snaps, that people can buy that clip into a car seat when it isn’t being used. The driver can wear the lanyard around their neck, reminding them a child is in the back.