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Health & Parenting

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Danger: Kids Left in Hot Cars

Expert tips for keeping your kids safe from heat stroke in cars.

3. Bystander? Get Involved

If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately, advises the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible," states the NHTSA's web site.

Unfortunately, some child carriers have hoods, so you can’t tell if there is a child in the seat. Developing alarm systems that sound if a child’s seat belt is left fastened when the door shuts may be helpful in the future, McStay says.

4. Remind Yourself

Some parents or caregivers may forget that there is a sleeping child in the back seat and go about their business.

Think it can’t happen to you? It can, says Mark McDaniel, PhD, a psychology professor at the university of Washington at St. Louis. Here’s how:

"The memory is faced with a challenge when it needs to remember something that you don’t do every day, such as take your child to school,” McDaniel says. For instance, maybe Mom usually does that, but for some reason, Dad takes the task for the day, he says.

“If the child has fallen asleep in their car seat, which is usually behind the driver’s seat, there is no visual information to remind you that there is a kid to drop off and if you have not done it day in and day out, you need a cue,” McDaniel says. “These are not bad parents, but people who don’t have a good understanding of their memory system."

What can you do? Give yourself reminders. Keep telling yourself, out loud, to remember the child. And give yourself visual cues. For example, “place your briefcase beside your child so you must grab it before going to work, and will see your child,” McDaniel says. Or put your diaper bag on the seat next to you, so that you're reminded that you have the child with you.

5. Prevent Kids From Wandering Into the Car

Don't let your children play in your car, make sure the car's doors and trunk are locked when you're not using it, and keep the keys out of kids' reach. That may help prevent children from getting accidentally locked in the car, McStay says.

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