Pediatrician: It’s easier than you think to forget your baby in hot car

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INDIANAPOLIS – In this heat, it takes just minutes for a child trapped inside a car to die.

It’s happened 13 times so far this year nationwide.

“This can happen to anyone and I think the problem is many people feel, ‘Oh that’s terrible it won’t happen to me,’ said Dr. Eric A. Yancy, chief medical officer and pediatrician for MHS Indiana. “And if you interview a lot of people this has happened to, they will tell you exactly the same thing, ‘I never thought I could ever do that.’”

Dr. Yancy said it’s oftentimes not who you might consider to be bad or negligent parents.

“You may hear that and go, ‘How can you forget your baby is in the car?’ Quite easily. We’re creatures of habit so if it’s not your habit that you have the baby that day, well we’re a distracted society and by the time they realize, oh my goodness I have the baby today, it could be an hour later, it could be an hour and a half later, and it’s too late.”

Easy as that, said Dr. Yancy. The baby is sleeping. You’re distracted. It’s not your normal routine.

Dr. Yancy said the temperature in a car can climb three degrees every five minutes, and a baby’s organs start to shut down at 107 degrees.

“Babies can’t cool off,” said Dr. Yancy. “If you think about it, they’ve got the car seat on either side. They’re wrapped in. They’re strapped in. There’s no skin surface exposed to really lose the heat so they continue to basically almost reheat themselves.”

Dr. Yancy said cracking the windows or parking in the shade makes very little difference.

“People think there might be a safe zone. There is no safe zone. How long is too long? The minute the door slams shut and you turn to walk away, that’s too long.”

Dr. Yancy suggests keeping a big object like a teddy bear or beach ball in the car seat. When you put the child in the car seat, put the object in the front seat. Even if your precious cargo is quiet in the back and you’re distracted, you’ll see the object up front with you and remember.

“As simple as it may sound, it’s a reminder that the baby is in there.”

Dr. Yancy said death can happen even when it’s as mild as 65 degrees outside.

Twenty states have laws against leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Indiana is not one of them.

“Only 20 states out of 50 with a law that says you can’t abandon a child in a car is atrocious, and absolutely Indiana should be one of the states that adopts that law.”