March 20, 2018

Can We Save Our Children from Hyperthermia?

As hot weather lingers in some parts of the country, I keep seeing too many news articles about children dying or almost dying from being left in a hot car. As a parent, I can only imagine the devastation of losing your child this way. How can you forget your child? With such busy lives and crazy schedules, it’s probably not as hard as we would like to think.

A study at SFSU puts child deaths from hyperthermia (heat stroke) at an average of 36 per year since 1998. Most of the deaths involve children under 2 years old, but go up to thirteen. Temperatures in a closed car can jump almost 30 degrees in 20 minutes, and cracked windows make little difference in the internal car temp. Since children’s bodies warm 3-5 times faster than adults, a quickly rising car temp can be fatal much quicker than a parent may realize.

What can parents do to avoid a preventable death when even parents who work in child-related jobs can fail? Some companies are trying to make things easier for busy, distracted parents.

Baby Alert International makes the Child Minder® System, an alarm that clips to a car seat when the baby is strapped in. If a parent moves more than 10 feet away, the key ring alarm goes off. It turns on when you strap your child in, and turns off when you unclip the unit. It sells for $64.95 at their site.

Sisters of Invention has a new product called the Halo Baby Seat Safety System. It’s a car seat pad that activates when you place your baby in the seat. The alarm goes off if a parent forgets the baby or during extreme heat or cold. If no one responds, a louder alarm sounds to alert passersby. They are currently taking pre-orders on their site.

NASA is trying to license its Child Presence Sensor technology.  It also uses a weight sensor that activates when a child is placed in the seat, and deactivates when the child is removed. All three products utilize a key-chain alarm to alert parents of a problem.

While these various products will be available to parents and caregivers, one has to wonder: how many people will actually buy them? Parents are certain that they’ll never forget their child no matter how busy they are. But stress and distraction can take their toll. We’re human. We forget — even with our good intentions. Maybe parents won’t think to use these products themselves, but will buy one to have their babysitter use during errands. Or it could bring peace of mind when grandparents take the child. I’ve even seen a push for legislation, but I’m not so sure we need yet another government regulation intruding into our lives.

So I’m curious parents:

* Do you feel your child is at risk for something like this?

* Would you buy a product to help you remember to check the back seat for your child?

* Do you ever leave your child in the car, even for a “minute”?

* And do you feel it’s time for legislation to force car seat manufacturers to build in alarms?

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