It's every parent's worst nightmare.
From January to June 20, 2022, there have been five vehicular heatstroke deaths in the country – two of those were in the Houston area, including a child who was forgotten inside a car for several hours in triple-digit heat.
With the never-ending heat wave in North Texas, first responders have a warning for parents.
On Tuesday, Cook Children's hospital in Fort Worth put on a demonstration to show exactly what that looks like.
Representatives set up a digital thermometer inside a vehicle in the middle of the afternoon.
It hit triple digits outside and inside, the temperature soared quickly.
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Within minutes, it reached 124 degrees. About an hour or so later, it hit 141 degrees inside the SUV.
Experts say this kind of heat can start shutting down organs in anyone stuck inside. Young children are particularly at risk for heatstroke, or hyperthermia.
“Inside the vehicle can be 20 or more degrees hotter inside the car than the outside temperature. So it only takes a few minutes for a child to heat up,” said Dana Walraven, manager of Community Health Outreach at Cook Children’s and coordinator with Safe Kids North Texas Fort Worth. “Children heat up three to five times faster than that of an adult. Their temperatures rise to 104 105 that starts shutting down many of the organs that are going to help them survive something like this."
If you think it's impossible to forget a child, it's not.
In the last two years, MedStar of Fort Worth has responded to about a dozen kids in hot cars. Already this summer, crews have responded to three incidents, all under 4 years old.
No fatalities have been reported in recent years. But there have been two hot car deaths of children in Texas so far this year.
If you look closer at their data, MedStar is finding another occurrence in hot car calls.
"What we've been seeing with our MedStar crews running some of these calls is kiddos that are leaving their parents and going to explore. Then they're getting in vehicles without their parents knowing and inadvertently either getting locked in the car or not understanding because they're small and they don't know how to get themselves out of that vehicle," said Desiree Partain, transformation manager for MedStar.
MedStar says it's important for parents to have situational awareness. Keep your keys out of reach, lock your doors, and look before you lock.
Always lock your doors leading to the driveway or garage. If a child goes missing, check the pool first, and then check the vehicles, including trunks.
"Speaking from personal experience I have that a three year old and a five year old – I can I can understand how these things can happen,” said Partain. “You get into this kind of haze as a parent, whether you're sleep deprived. We like routine. And sometimes that routine is getting ready for work and leaving the house – and yes, we may have put kiddo in the car but our brains are so occupied with life and work and everything around us. I could understand how a parent could take their kid to work and not realize that they're in the car seat. So it's real."
So the same goes for your pets. They can't sweat, so they can suffocate in the heat even with the windows cracked open.
If you need to, set daily alerts on your phone to check the back seat.
There are also some car seat brands that have sensors on it that will connect to your phone and notify you if someone is still in the car. Some newer car models also come with a reminder feature on the dashboard to alert the driver to check the backseat before getting out.
MedStar says you can also make a habit of putting your purse, one of your shoes, or other crucial items in the backseat so that you’re forced to go back there to grab it.
If you ever see a child alone in a car, take action. Call 911. The dispatcher will walk you through what you need to do, including CPR.