Greenwich Hospital Pediatrician Stresses Safety After Child Dies In Hot Car

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Even on a 70-degree day, the sun can heat the inside of car to more than 100 degrees, experts said.
Even on a 70-degree day, the sun can heat the inside of car to more than 100 degrees, experts said. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – With summer heating up across Fairfield County, experts are urging parents to keep their children safe, especially after the death of a toddler inside a hot car in Ridgefield.

For Dr. Peter Acker, chairman of pediatrics at Greenwich Hospital, the main concern during the summer is keeping older, more athletic children hydrated. These are the kids who are more frequently without supervision and who don’t drink enough water, Acker said.

In hot weather, parents should keep a close eye on all their children, making sure that they’re hydrated and in the shade or in cool, ventilated areas during the hottest part of the day, he said.

Many people are more likely to pay closer attention to toddlers, Acker said. But in his experience, heat injuries in toddlers are much more rare. And despite the media attention, toddler deaths, like the 15-month-old Ridgefield boy who died after being forgotten in a car while his father worked, are even more rare.

“If this happened all the time, people would be vigilant all the time,” said Acker. A total of 16 children have died this year in hot cars; last year, 44 such deaths were reported, according to Connecticut State Police.

To prevent such tragic deaths, experts are developing electronic warning devices that can hook to car seats, alerting adults if they leave a child inside a car, he said.

Parents and caregivers must be vigilant, he said, because a baby isn’t able to tolerate extreme heat in the way an adult can, especially in an area without ventilation.

“It’s remarkable how quickly a car can heat up,” Acker said. As little as a half-hour inside a sealed car in hot weather can cause serious health issues, especially in young children, he said.

"Even on a 70-degree day with sunshine, the temperature in the car can still rise above 100 degrees because the solar radiation gets trapped in the car," said Gary Lessor, a meteorologist at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

The New Canaan Police summed up safety tips for children and hot cars in just three steps:

  • Never leave a child alone in a car.
  • Look in your vehicle before locking the door.
  • Call 911 if you see a child left in a car.

"Leaving a child of any age unattended inside a closed and/or locked vehicle when summer temperatures begin to sizzle is dangerous and can be fatal," the Connecticut State Police said in a statement.

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There should be guards and patrol cars going threw all large parking lots in search of people leaving unattended children and pets in their vehicles