No. 520

The next password is ralph



Have you ever thought about what kind of person would go off and leave a toddler or a small helpless child in a hot car, van or other vehicle for any length of time? In my thinking, I may have overlooked something, but I am going to give you my answer to that question. A person who would do something like this is either high on something, not playing with a full deck or is a minimum wage employee who is not the child's parent.

Each year at the beginning of summer and throughout the following months, it seems there are always several cases reported in the news where an adult has gone off and left a small child in a hot vehicle and returned to find the child dead or suffering from serious heat exhaustion.

While I can't give you all the details about this all too often tragedy, my friends at the Arkansas Children's Hospital can. Recently, I received a press release about this very thing, and with the hope and prayer that it might save a few precious lives, I want to share this information with you. After you read and think about it, if you are a responsible adult, I believe you'll think more than twice about ever doing something like this in the future. To be sure, to come back to a hot car where you have left a toddler all alone, for even a short period of time, and find him dead will evoke a mental picture you will never be able to erase, as long as you live.

Please consider this information and the consequences of not heeding it. "Though it may not seem that hot outside to you, children left alone in a parked car on a hot day can suffer permanent disability or die very quickly. During the summer months, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 130 to 170 degrees in as little as 15 minutes," says Donna Parnell, R.N., M.N.Sc., trauma coordinator at Arkansas Children's Hospital. "Direct sunlight and a dark-colored car can speed up the process. Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke may occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees."

When in a hot car, a child loses body fluids and salts through perspiration, causing heat exhaustion. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which prohibits the body from perspiring. Body temperature then rises, causing severe damage to the brain, liver and kidneys, and even death. "A parked car is like an oven. With the doors closed and windows up, the temperature inside increases and it becomes like an oven in a matter of minutes on a hot summer day. You should no more leave your child in the car, even with the windows rolled down, than you should allow your child to sit in the oven in your home," adds Parnell.

Parents need to be cautious of leaving their vehicles unattended, especially in the summer months. Deaths can occur from a variety of situations, like children gaining access to vehicles themselves, to children who were left behind by adults including parents, caregivers, daycare providers, van drivers and babysitters. These deaths are preventable. Here are some things for parents and caregivers to consider:

* Children playing, who let themselves or others into unlocked vehicles. Many toddlers can wander off and into cars with open doors. These children can easily shut themselves inside the vehicle.

* Children who are left in vehicles by adults. In many cases, parents will leave a child, who is usually sleeping, for a brief time but can become preoccupied and leave the child longer than intended. Parents might not want to wake a sleeping child, so instead leave him or her in the vehicle.

*Children who are left in vehicles by adults who are unaware that they are leaving a child. Anyone transporting children needs to be aware of the children in the vehicle. Children can fall asleep or get out of their seats and hide in small places.

Parnell recommends the following tips to keep children safe: Always keep your car doors locked even when the car is in the garage. Children may play in the car and can become trapped when they are not strong enough to open the doors. Teach children that the car is not a playground. Check the temperature of child safety seats and seat belts before buckling up kids. The metal can become hot enough to cause burns. Call 911 immediately if you find a child left alone in a parked car or your child becomes locked in your car. The child's life may depend on it. Ensure that children drink plenty of fluids. Never leave your child in a vehicle to run an errand, even for a few minutes. Cars are not babysitters."

Most people are thoughtful and careful, but a brief mental lapse can be tragic. As I said before, a lifeless child discovered in a hot car would create a vivid mental picture that you can never erase.

(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)

The next password is ralph