Here is why you should never leave a child alone in a car
We usually talk about a “car in the sun”, but the truth is that it doesn’t have to be this specific situation, although it is logical to think that a car in the sun will experience an increase in internal temperature much faster than a car that is simply parked in the shade, and that the danger is much greater.
A car in the sun works like an oven: it absorbs the heat transmitted by the sun’s rays, and doesn’t allow this heat to escape, producing a kind of greenhouse effect that raises the temperature constantly, faster and faster. When it reaches the point of equilibrium we could be talking about internal temperatures of more than 60 ºC.
As we are reminded by the Spanish Pediatric Association, a small child aged between one and five can die within 30 to 60 minutes if locked in the car in summer, without ventilation.
The main reasons why young children are so vulnerable are as follows:
- They have more body surface than an adult in proportion to their weight, and accumulate more heat, faster
- Their bodies contain a higher proportion of water than adults
- Children have less autonomy than an adult to hydrate themselves, especially when very young, and they easily become dehydrated
The reasons why a parent or caregiver might leave a child alone in the car are very varied. It could just be forgetfulness, due to a change in routines or habits such as the end of the school term and the beginning of the holidays, or an unexpected event that takes all the adult’s attention and ultimately unleashes the tragedy.
It may be negligence – we cannot overlook this possibility – or it may even be that the children, through carelessness or innocent play, inadvertently lock themselves in the car, pretending to be the driver or absorbed in their games and fantasies.
If a child has been left in a car, you must act quickly and try to get them out as soon as possible, although you should always call the emergency services immediately to inform them of the situation and get advice on what to do.
In this kind of situation, if you feel that the child is in danger, the steps to follow are:
- Try to open the car. If you can’t – if you don’t have the keys or they have been left inside – break a window, always keeping the child’s safety in mind
- The first thing to do is cool the body, moving the child to a cooler area, placing it in warm water (never cold), applying wet towels to the head and the rest of the body, taking care to soak them constantly so they don’t get hot. If you can fan the child or cool them with a fan, this will help
- If the child is conscious, offer them something to drink in small but frequent doses. It is advisable to keep their head raised
It is very important to take every possible measure to avoid this kind of high-risk situation from happening, maximizing your awareness of the children, keeping them under supervision at all times, and at the same time minimizing any source of unnecessary distraction, so that you always know where and how they are.