Local nurse shares tips to keep kids safe from hot cars

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Hot car deaths have become a trend in the U.S. 52 children died this way last year, making 2018 the deadliest in the last 20 years. So far in 2019, 25 kids have died after being left in hot cars according to kidsandhotcars.org, a website that tracks these types of deaths.

Teresa DeMoe, a nurse in the Women and Infants Center at HSHS Sacred Heart says there are many ways to avoid this type of preventable death.

DeMoe says some parents or caregivers will place a stuffed animal in their child’s car seat then move it to the front seat when their child is in the car, that way parents know if their kid is back there. Another option is to place a left shoe or an item necessary for the day like a purse or cell phone in the back seat so the driver is forced to check the back before leaving the car. DeMoe also recommends setting up a system with a child’s daycare to call the parent or caregiver if a child has not been dropped off.

“From research that I did it does show that within 10 to 20 mins if its 80 degrees in your car, it can raise to 100 degrees just within that short amount of time and so in probably less than an hour that child’s body temperature will raise because they can’t cool themselves down any other type of way,” DeMoe says.

Part of DeMoe’s job is educating new parents on car safety before they leave the hospital with their baby.

“We say not even to leave car seats in the car to get overheated because if you lay an infant in a hot car seat that can raise their temperature just doing that,” DeMoe says.

Hot cars are especially dangerous for young children.

“A baby and a young child’s body doesn’t deal with heat as well as an adult and as soon as their body temperatures start to reach about 104 then their body systems start to shut down,” DeMoe says.

Some cars are now even being built with technology to prevent hot car deaths. For example the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has a “rear occupant alert” which reminds drivers to check their backseats when they turn off their cars and open their doors.

“That way, if you have grandchildren, children or pets in the backseat you’ll be reminded that they are back there and you can get them out before you go,” says Rita Anderson who sells the car at Ken Vance Motors in Eau Claire.

Anderson says customers have responded well to the new feature including new Santa Fe owner, Pat Millermon.

“It’s really nice and we’re going to leave it on because our granddaughter goes in the back seat periodically so it will be a nice feature to have,” Millermon says. “Every car should have it.”

Even with these car features, DeMoe says the best way to prevent hot car deaths is to make it part of the routine to check the back seat every time before leaving a car.