It’s a fear most mothers have: accidentally locking their child in the car. And this weekend, it happened to country singer and new mom Carrie Underwood.
On Saturday, the mother of 4-month-old Isaiah tweeted:
Later in the day she tweeted a clarification, saying that it was her brother-in-law who came through with the window-breaking:
While it all turned out fine for Underwood and her son (and dogs), her weekend scare is a reminder of how harmful this kind of situation can be, and why it's important to know how to act if it happens to you.
“I cannot emphasize enough how very dangerous it is for babies to be left in a locked car,” Minu George, MD, an interim chief in the general division of pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York told Health.
“Even on relatively mild days, the car can overheat in a matter of minutes,” Dr. George says. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “When outside temperatures are in the low 80’s, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes, even with a window rolled down two inches.”
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And children are especially susceptible to the heat. “A child’s body can overheat three to five times faster than adults, putting them at much higher risk than adults for hyperthermia and heat stroke,” Dr. George says.
In 2014, 30 lives were lost and one death has already occurred this year as a result of children being left in vehicles, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report released in May of this year.
The organization also notes that there are also too many "close calls" that do not result in tragic deaths, but can cause serious injury, including permanent brain injury, blindness, and the loss of hearing, among others.
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You may feel like you'd never forget a child in the car, but no one's perfect—we all have frazzled days, and mistakes do happen—so it’s important to do everything possible to help yourself remember that your baby is in the back seat when you exit the automobile.
Dr. George suggests strapping your baby’s favorite teddy bear or diaper bag in the passenger seat or putting your purse or cell phone in the back seat next to your baby. “Anything that reminds you that the baby is in the back seat can be life-saving,” Dr. George says.
Finally, if the baby gets accidentally locked in the car and you cannot get to the keys, call 911 right away, Dr. George advises. Authorities should respond within minutes to unlock your car. But if you need to break a window, do it. Just be sure to choose the window farthest from your child.
“Every minute counts,” she adds.