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Heat-related deaths: children and pets left in cars

It happens every year. Children and pets are left in hot cars. Just last week, five dogs died after being left in a car outside a Dothan Walmart. And all too often, parents leave children in cars for what they think is just a moment, or they forget the kids are in the back seat.
Dr. Robert Benak with Dothan Pediatric Clinic says the answer is simple for those you wonder if leaving kids in hot cars is a worthwhile risk. "Don't do it," he says.
Dr. Robert Benak with Dothan Pediatric Clinic says the answer is simple for those you wonder if leaving kids in hot cars is a worthwhile risk. "Don't do it," he says.
Vets say pets can be more vulnerable to extreme heat than small children, because they don't produce sweat.
Vets say pets can be more vulnerable to extreme heat than small children, because they don't produce sweat.
The intentions are usually good.  A parent run in the store, with plans to return in a minute or two.

But just one minute can have deadly consequences.

"That is something that should never be done.  You're going to get in the store, you're going get in a line, you're going be there for a few minutes and that's all it takes.  In the hot summer, in Dothan, Alabama, a car with a child inside, is deadly," said Dr. Robert Benak, who works at Dothan Pediatric Clinic. 

He says a few minutes of bad judgment aren’t worth a lifetime of regret. 

"Don't ever do it.  That's the best advice.  Always take the child in with you,” Benak said.  “If they're crying and yelling, you're going to be o.k., and the child's going be o.k., too.  But they're not going to be o.k. in that hot car."

Statistics show 44 children left in cars died of heat stroke last year in the U.S.  So far this year, seven have died.

Vets say pets can be more vulnerable to extreme heat than small children.
 
"The big issue is how pets cool themselves.  They don't sweat like we do, and so they usually cool themselves by breathing.  And so when the air is hot, it makes it more difficult for them to cool themselves," said Dr. Kirk Holland of Care Animal Center.”

It's heart-breaking when lives are lost, whether it's a child or pet.  But more important, it's preventable. 

"The best thing to do is leave them at home or take them and put them under your arm and carry them, if they're small enough," Kirkland said.

You may have heard all this before.  But these doctors hope a regular reminder will help save lives.  So take those kids and pets inside with you.


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