Sign in Register
Posted On: 20 July 2020 01:30 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 10:18 am

The dangers of leaving children in cars during summer

Content Writer
Discuss here!
Start a discussion

It's summer in Qatar, and that means the temperatures are rising and may go well above the 45 degrees Celsius mark, In fact, in the coming weeks, we'll be seeing more humid and hot weather. During the heatwave, it's very important to keep ourselves safe, and more importantly so, our kids!

Sometimes, when out and about, you may think it's OK to leave your child in the car for a few minutes, while you run a quick errand. Maybe you need to pick up your dry cleaning, or want to pick up some food from a restaurant, or want to make a quick stop at the grocery store, or something similar. You may think it's OK to leave your child, especially a younger one strapped in their car seat, for just a few minutes. But is it?

Is it really OK to leave a child in the car in the midst of summer in Qatar, even if it's for a few minutes?

No, it's not!

Dr. Mohamed Al Amri, Senior Consultant, HMC Pediatric Emergency Medicine warns of the risk of leaving babies and young children unattended in vehicles or other enclosed spaces in Qatar. He says even on a cool day, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to a dangerous level:

“Children should never be left unattended in a vehicle. Young children left alone in a vehicle may play with the car’s ignition, accidentally stop the engine, or lock themselves in. The temperature in a vehicle parked in direct sunlight can quickly rise, placing occupants at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as the gas can come through the air conditioner vents. A child left in a hot car is at risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and even death."

In fact, every summer, in Qatar, hundreds of patients are treated at HMC’s Emergency Departments and Pediatric Emergency Centres for heat-related illnesses. Between April and November 2017, over 1,000 heat-related illnesses were reported at Hamad General Hospital’s Emergency Department, with the largest number of patients seen in late August and early September, among them many were children.

According to Dr. Rafael Consunji, Director of the Hamad Trauma Centre's Hamad Injury Prevention Programme (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.

"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, heat stroke, and even death."

Is it OK to leave a child in the car for a short time if it's parked in the shade?

The dangers of leaving children in cars during summer in Qatar

Perhaps we don't realise that parked cars actually get hot very quickly and can rise to dangerous, even fatal levels, even if parked in the shade. If you leave a child in the car, even for a few minutes, it's just not safe.

In fact, 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 (the temperature in the car can more than double within a few minutes) and the windows are down. A small opening of 5 centimetres, for example, has little effect on the rising heat.

The colour of the seats and interior of the car also don't have any effect on the rising heat even if they are white or light coloured. Another thing to keep in mind is that even large cars can heat up just as fast as smaller ones.

What can happen if I accidentally forget my child is in the back seat and leave the car?

You may think this is a strange question and how can anyone possibly forget they have a child in the back. But, it's happened many times, not intentionally though. Some children have been left in hot cars unintentionally, with a parent or caregiver forgetting the child is there, often because the child has fallen asleep in the backseat, or because the parent or caregiver is distracted, especially when facing a change from the usual routine. This is extremely dangerous, especially if gone for a long period of time. Many children have died this way because the car starts to heat up, causing dehydration which can lead to heatstroke which may damage the brain and other organs of the body, and eventually, even cause death, if the parent or caregiver is not back for many hours.

A child's body temperature doesn't take long to get very high fast when left in a car because

  • The temperature inside a car can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and 40 degrees in an hour. It doesn’t have to feel hot outside to be dangerous inside a car. Deaths have happened when it’s just above 70 degrees F (Fahrenheit) outside. Leaving the windows open slightly does not prevent the temperature from rising to a dangerous level.
  • A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. Children have a lot of body surface area that absorbs heat. Children’s bodies have not yet developed the ability to cool down well. (Seattle Children’s Hospital)

Many children who have died from heatstroke after being left alone in a car were aged 3 and under, but it has happened to children even as old as 14.

It's a traumatic thing to happen, but it has.

Other risks of leaving a child alone in the car include being trapped in a trunk, setting the car in motion or being taken from the car.

Have children in Qatar died from being left alone in the car during the summer?

Although deaths from heatstrokes of children left in cars is not a common thing in Qatar, there have been some incidents in the past, and to be honest, even one case is one too many.

In 2010, a four-year-old child died after being left locked in a school bus for several hours has made the country
more vigilant, with increased monitoring in schools.

In 2016, Qatari authorities launched an investigation into the death of a four-year-old British girl, after she was reportedly left in a car for a few hours. The child was discovered around midday and was reportedly left in the car since the morning for several hours by a family member who is a teacher (The New Arab).

    The dangers of leaving children in cars during summer in Qatar

    What can I do to ensure I don't forget my child in the back seat when I get out?

    There are things a parent or a caregiver can do to help safeguard against something like this ever happening and protect their child in hot weather.

    1. Make it a point to always check the back seat and ensure all the children are safely outside the car before locking and it and walking away from it,
    2. Keep your bag, mobile, wallet or an essential item you know you won't leave the car without in the backseat where the child is.
    3. Also, keep an item that belongs to the child sitting in the back seat, in the front, most probably on the passenger seat, like a soft toy, water bottle, lunch box, snack, so it's a visual reminder that there is someone in the back seat.
    4. Avoid distractions while driving like talking on the mobile phone which can be very dangerous.
    5. If your child is being dropped to their nursery, school or elsewhere by someone else, make sure to check that they have arrived at their destination safely.
    6. If there is a change in your normal routine, make sure to stay alert.
    The dangers of leaving children in cars during summer

    What other safety precautions can I take to make sure my child doesn't get stuck in the car during the heat?

    Parents should always lock their car doors when the car is not in use because sometimes a child may just be playing or be curious when no one is around, and get inside the car. It may be easy for them to get in, but getting back out of the car again may not be that easy. The child may accidentally get locked in the car and not know how to get out. As a parent, you may not notice your child is missing or even think that they may get stuck in the car until it's too late and the temperature inside the car has risen. Hot car deaths have taken place when a child accidentally locks themself in the car.

    To avoid just a traumatic scenario, it's best to

    1. keep car keys out of reach of children
    2. never allow children to play with the car's control buttons
    3. talk to the children if they're old enough to understand about the safety of cars
    4. teach children how to use the horn in the case of an emergency
    5. keep rear fold-down seats closed to prevent a child from crawling into the trunk from inside the car.
    6. teach children that cars are not safe places to play, especially the car trunk.

    What do I do my child is accidentally left in the car for a long time or gets into the car and get's locked inside?

    If such a situation does arise:

    1. immediately take the child out of the car.
    2. If the child is conscious, spray the child with cool water and give them water.
    3. If the child is not responsive or is in pain, call 999 in Qatar. (You can also call HMC's Emergency Department at +974

    Do you know heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, car-related deaths in children under 15?

    Let's tell you how:

  • Heatstroke can happen when the body is not able to cool itself quickly enough.
  • Heatstroke can happen when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees F
  • A child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's does.
  • When left in a hot car, a child's major organs begin to shut down when his temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (F).
  • A child can die when his temperature reaches 107 degrees F.
  • Cars heat up quickly! In just 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees F.
  • Cracking a window and/or air conditioning does little to keep it cool once the car is turned off (Healthy Children).
    • The dangers of leaving children in cars during summer in Qatar

      The bottom line

        According to 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."

        Have you ever left your child unattended in the car for even a few minutes? Did you know the risks involved with leaving your child unattended in the car? What do you think of this article? Do let us know your thoughts in our Comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!