Why you shouldn’t leave your child alone in a car

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Leaving children alone in a car either by their parents or adults can prove fatal and is one of the important causes of heat exhaustion among kids in Qatar, according to a paediatrician at Hamad Medical Corporation.

In an interview with Qatar Tribune recently, Senior Consultant at HMC Paediatric Emergency, Dr Bashir Ali A Youssef, cautioned that adults should never leave children in a parked car unattended, even if for a brief period.

“Sometimes parents park their cars to get something from a nearby shop thinking that they won’t take long or thinking it will be safe. However, this is far from the reality. You may leave a child in a car in the company of an adult with the air-condition on which is acceptable to some extent, but never ever leave children in a car unattended, even with the air-condition on, as leaving a child in a parked car could prove fatal due to fast rising temperature inside the car in a short span of time. This can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” he said.

Dr Youssef further stated that children can get heat exhaustion or stroke due to longer period of exposure to sun, and even keeping them in a closed area for a long period, which most parents or guardians are unaware of.

The Paediatric Emergency receives around 10 to 20 such cases of heat exhaustion/heat stroke cases in summer, he added.

What happens when children are exposed to heat

Elaborating, the doctor said when a child is exposed to a hot environment for a long time it can lead to change in the physiology of the body. “There will be loss of fluids which will make the kid dehydrated.”

The symptoms of heat exhaustion are thirst, headache, dizziness, fainting, irritability, tiredness and weakness. “These are common features of heat exhaustion when you are exposed to the sun for a longer period of time without protection.”

Dr Youssef added an extended period of heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which can be life threatening. Heat stroke affects the functioning of vital body organs like kidneys, liver, heart and brain by shutting them down.

What to do in case of heat stroke

Giving specific advice, Dr Youssef said that if a child shows any signs of heat exhaustion, you should remove him or her from sun exposure, put him in a shaded area or a room with air conditioner and if he is dressed, try loosening the clothing.

“If you notice dizziness or the child has fainted, make him lie down with legs raised to try to increase the blood circulation to the brain. Also, try cooling the temperature down by placing cold packs around the neck, armpits or groin area. This process can help bringing down the child’s body temperature.

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“You can try using water misting on the body or place the child near a fan and gradually give him a cold drink and observe him closely. This will give a cooling sensation,” Dr Youssef explained.

“And if there is no improvement in the child’s condition in the next 30 minutes, then you should call an ambulance, transfer the child to the nearest medical facility and give the patient proper medical attention by a physician,” he added.

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