Public Health

5 Tips to Help You Remember Your Child is in the Car

A mother buckles her child into a car seat in the back of a car.

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You may believe that leaving your child in a hot car is something you’d never do. Yet, sadly, it happens every year, especially during the summer months. Most children who die from heatstroke are left in the backseat of a car unintentionally by someone who meant to drop them off at school — typically daycare or preschool.

Children’s bodies are more susceptible to high temperatures and can overheat as much as five times faster than adults. Changes in their vital signs can occur in just two minutes.

Heatstroke begins when a child’s body temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature that reaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit could be fatal. (Learn how quickly a car can heat up.)

While you may believe it couldn’t happen to you, it’s always best to play it safe when it comes to vehicular heatstroke. Here are five tips to help ensure you never forget your child is in the car:

  1. Look before you lock. Make it a habit to open the back door whenever you leave your vehicle.
  2. Set an alarm. Use your smartphone or digital watch to set an alarm that will remind you to drop off your child. This can be especially helpful when your routine changes.
  3. Place something you need in the backseat. Put your purse, briefcase or something else you’ll need that day, like a work badge, in the backseat so you’ll have an extra reminder to look behind you before exiting the car.
  4. Use the buddy system. If you’re taking your child to daycare or school, ask your spouse or a friend to text or call you to ensure you dropped them off as planned. You can return the favor on a day when someone else is dropping off your child In addition, ask your child's care provider to call you if your child hasn't been dropped off.
  5. Use a visual reminder. Keep a toy, pacifier or other reminder of your child in the front passenger seat whenever they’re in the car. It will help serve as a visual trigger.

Heatstroke Symptoms

If you’re afraid your child has heatstroke, it helps to know what to look for so you can get them treatment as quickly as possible. Typically, there are three stages to heat-related illnesses. The first is heat cramps, which normally occur in the legs or stomach.

The second is heat exhaustion. Common signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness

When heat cramps and heat exhaustion aren’t treated, they can worsen into heatstroke, which develops when the body’s heat regulation system stops working and body temperature rises unchecked. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition.

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache

Heatstroke Treatment

It's critical to treat heatstroke right away. First, call 911, then move the child to a cool area and lay them down with their feet slightly elevated. Next, wet their skin, remove articles of clothing and fan them. If you can, have the child drink some water. If you don't have drinking water nearby, you can use a hose. Heatstroke can damage the brain and other vital organs, so it's important to act as quickly as possible to cool a child down

If you see a young child alone in a car in the heat, call 911 right away.

Find an Emergency Room

When every second counts, you can count on AdventHealth. Our skilled medical team is trained to treat adults and children who experience heatstroke. We deliver timely, high-quality care in a convenient, close-to-home setting. Find the emergency room closest to you.

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