IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- With the arrival of warmer weather, there are more reports of children being left in or playing in hot cars. Sadly, there already have been 19 deaths nationwide this year. Children under the age of 3 are most at risk, since infants and toddlers are unable to get out of a car on their own.
Even on a cool, sunny day, with temperatures in the 70s, the inside of car can heat up to a life-threatening temperature, said Charles Jennissen, M.D., a physician with University of Iowa Children's Hospital and director of the UI Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
"Children's bodies are just not as well-equipped as adults' bodies to deal with the heat. It can take just a few minutes for a vehicle to reach temperatures above 100 degrees, and then a few more minutes for a child to pass out from hyperthermia," Jennissen said.
Once overcome by heat, a child can lose consciousness, have seizures and quickly die.
In some cases, a parent or caregiver simply forgets their child was in the back seat. This is especially true for infants who have fallen asleep in a rear-facing car seat. In these tragedies, it's important not to blame the caregiver, Jennissen said.
"If one parent is dropping off a child at day care when usually it's the other parent, it can be very easy to forget and take the usual route to work or a store. A child in a rear-facing infant seat in the back seat may be impossible to see or hear from the front seat," he said.
Jennissen suggests these tips to avoid a tragedy:
--Make it a habit of leaving your purse or briefcase in the back seat next to the child's car seat. That way, when you reach your destination and get your item, you will see your child.
--Even when parking your car in your own driveway or garage, lock the car doors so children do not enter the vehicle to play.
--Ask your day care center to call you immediately if your child is ever a few minutes late.
--Never leave a young child unattended in a car on purpose, even for a short period of time.
Online Producer: Jason Mortvedt