ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As summer temperatures continue to rise, safety officials are warning parents not to leave kids alone in a car. They said children dying of heat stroke can happen to even the most dialed-in parent.
As the child safety nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide points out, babies can sometimes be so peaceful and quiet in the backseat that we forget they are even there. A child being left alone in a car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke, even in cooler temperatures.
Danielle Mercurio M.D., an emergency center physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, demonstrated the symptoms a child experiences when they are left inside a hot car, even for minutes. The demonstration was outside St. Pete Fire Rescue's Master Fire Station Friday morning.
Mercurio used a simulation mannequin in the demonstration. The simulation positioned the baby, left alone in a car seat and locked inside a parked vehicle with the engine off. An assistant operated a tablet to change the mannequin’s vital signs as the temperature climbed.
In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise by nearly 20 degrees – enough to become deadly.
Florida is one of the leading states in the country where children are dying from heat stroke inside unattended cars. It is second only to much-bigger Texas.
The warning comes as two parents are set to appear before a Seminole County judge in October after police say they left their child in a hot car while they shopped at Home Depot. Police said shoppers noticed the child needed help after the car alarm started going off.
The doors were locked with the windows up and without the engine running to provide air conditioning. Investigators said it took about 15 minutes to get the child out. Their face was bright red and covered in sweat. The child is now safe with the Department of Children and Families while the parents face child neglect charges.
"If you see a child alone in a car, we urge you to act right away as every minute counts," Lieutenant Garth Swingle with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue said on Friday.
He urged bystanders to call 911 right away, saying that one call could save a life. Mercurio said that in Florida, the extreme risk never goes away.
Safety experts said to make a habit of parking your car, then looking in the back seat before locking your doors once you know everyone is outside. It also helps to put your wallet or your phone in the back seat when traveling with your child – something you can't leave your car without.