‘Where’s baby?’: La Crosse health leaders warn about hot car dangers

Health leaders offer safety reminders helping parents avoid leaving children, pets in hot cars

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – One of the leading causes of death in cars involves parked cars. A record of 53 children nationwide died each year inside hot cars in 2018 and 2019.

People may scratch their heads when children are left and forgotten in cars. However, data from the National Traffic Safety Administration shows about 46 percent of the time parent forgot a child in a car, the caregiver meant to drop the child off at a daycare or preschool. Health experts in La Crosse say simple reminders can save a child’s life.

“Crashes of course number one but heat-related deaths is number two,” Nick Eastman said, manager of clinical services for Tri-State Ambulance. “105 degrees, 107 degrees is where we’re looking at potential death,” Eastman said.

It doesn’t take much for temperatures to heat up north of 100 degrees inside a car. It only takes 70-degree temperatures outside to elevate the temperature inside a car above 100 degrees.  Nearly 75 percent of children who are forgotten and die are under two years old.

“Old people and especially children are gonna have heat stroke much quicker than healthy adults,” Mayo Clinic Health System’s Dr. Emily French said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for parents with the acronym ACT. A: Avoid heatstroke injury and death by never leaving kids in the car alone. C: Create reminders. Put a stuffed animal in the back when it is empty and move it to the front seat when your child is in the back. T: Take action. Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car. Dr. Emily French of Mayo Clinic Health System says this can happen to anyone.

“We’ve got 20 things on our mind; we’re just trying to get day and do the best for our families, and I think that that can happen very easily and more easily than a lot of people understand,” French said.

The second leading cause of heatstroke-related deaths in children is actually children getting into unattended vehicles. This is why it’s always important for people to lock car doors year-round. Eastman said people who see a child in a car have a responsibility to let someone know.

“Even if it doesn’t appear that the child is in distress, I think it’s important to notify someone,” Eastman said.

Even though these deaths happen, people can prevent a child’s life from ending too soon. Wisconsin passed a law called the Good Samaritan Law in 2015. This protects people from legal action if they break into a car to save a child or pet.