We’ve all been there. You dash into a store, sure your errand will be brief. An hour later you emerge after running into an old friend, checking out the clearance racks and cursing the glacial checkout lines.
“Every adult should know by now that no matter how briefly you plan to be gone, you should never leave young children unattended in a car,” says Sharon J. Rengers, R.N., Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Prevention & Wellness of Norton Children’s Hospital.
Despite what we all should know, tragically, children are still being left in cars during the sweltering summer months (in 2014, 33 children died nationwide from being left in hot cars). Frigid winter temperatures can also spell danger for children, and even pets.
Hypothermia, a serious and potentially deadly loss of body heat, occurs when body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Common symptoms of severe hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech and a slowed pulse.
How long does it take for someone to die from being left out in the cold? Lots of factors can affect how quickly hypothermia develops. For example, sitting still in a small confined space can lead to hypothermia faster than actively moving.
One thing is certain: Because of their smaller body mass, young children are more prone to heat loss and hypothermia than adults. Children also have less fat, which can help serve as protective insulation.
Some adults intent on running a presumably “quick errand” may mistakenly think their children are better off left in a well-warmed car than taken out into the bitter cold. Think again!
You can never be sure your errand won’t turn into an epic odyssey. Moreover, no one ever imagines their child could become an innocent victim caught up in a car theft or kidnapping. Yet, news reports remind us that these incidents happen all too quickly.
“Just make it a rule to never, ever leave any living creature alone in your car,” says Rengers.
OK, perhaps a surly adult who hates shopping and refuses to go in with you might be all right for a few minutes. But for kids or pets? Just make that a very big, absolute no-no.