Small children more vulnerable in hot cars

North Texas baby 16th hot car death this year

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Two deaths in Texas this month serve as an awful reminder that parents need to be extra vigilant when it comes to heat, cars and their children.

A 6-month-old baby girl died Tuesday when deputies in the North Texas town of Melissa say her father left her in the back of the minivan.  He's facing manslaughter charges.

A Houston toddler died last week after he apparently climbed into a car to look for a toy, according to investigators.

Sixteen children have died in hot cars in the U.S. so far this year, and it's barely summer.

"Infants' and children's bodies are very different with temperature control in the first place," said Dr. Ian Mitchell, director of trauma at Children's Hospital.

Not only do their bodies not cool like adults' bodies do, their large heads gain heat quickly.

"Once their body temperature is rising over 104, 105 degrees, and your proteins are not working and your electrolytes are now running out of control. So, they very quickly can succumb, not just to dehydration, but severe brain injury," Mitchell said.

Temperatures inside a car can rise very quickly.  While 89 degrees outside, a thermometer in the car in the shade rose to 115 degrees in 15 minutes.

Experts say breaks in routine or stress often play a part in these tragedies.

There are some technologies that may help serve as reminders to parents.

Evenflo has a car seat that includes a sensor that chimes when the car in turned off.

Several smart phone apps like Precious Cargo can also sound an alert.

GM is introducing a feature in some 2017 GMC Acadias that notifies drivers to look in the rear seat.

There are also  some low-tech, low-cost behaviors that can help.

Experts suggest putting a stuffed animal in the front seat when a child is in the back seat.  Or,  put something like a purse, phone or your left shoe in the back with the child.

Child advocates say the biggest mistake parents and caregivers make is thinking it cannot possibly happen to them.

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