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I’m a children’s doctor – what you should do if you see a child alone in a hot car & the law explained

A FIVE-YEAR-OLD Texas boy died Monday after being in a car for hours as his family was making preparations to celebrate a sibling's birthday party.

"After 2-3 hours, mom realized the child (5-yr-old) was nowhere to be found. She [the mom] ran outside and discovered her son still in the safety seat," the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. 

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If you see a child alone in a hot car, call 911 immediatelyCredit: Getty
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A child can die when their body temperature reaches 107 degreesCredit: GETTY Pictures

A child can die when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees, they deteriorate quickly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that a child should never be left in a vehicle alone, regardless of whether the car is running, the windows are cracked, or if the air conditioning is on.

“Heatstroke can happen when the temperatures are as low at 57 degrees outside, and a car can heat up by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes,” Dr. Kira Sieplinga, a pediatric doctor at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Michigan said in an interview with TODAY Parents.

If you are in a parking lot, try to find the owner of the car. If the car is in a shopping center, go in and ask them to page the owner of the car using the license plate number.

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Ask other bystanders if they have seen the owner. If you can't help the child out of the car, break a window to get the child out. 

Most Good Samaritan laws provide basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger. They protect the Good Samaritan from "civil criminal liability if unintended consequences result from their assistance."

“We still have a responsibility if we see a child unattended in a car, said Sieplinga, adding.

“You really should tell 911 that it could be an emergency and let them know what’s going on and then consider getting the child out of the car — especially if they’re not responsive.”

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Once the child is out of the car, bring them to a shaded area immediately. Spray cool water to cool them down until help arrives.  

The National Safety Council advises parents and caregivers to avoid distractions to reduce the risk of forgetting a child.

Place a purse or something you need for the outing in the back seat before doing errands. 

The National Safety Council offers a free online course about the danger of vehicular heatstroke and children.

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