Sometimes a simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a situation that tests your humanity at it’s core. Imagine this scenario: you’re walking across the parking lot when you spot something out of place. There’s movement in one of the parked cars. You look a little closer and find that it’s a dog, or worse a child, inside the car.
It’s a hot summer day that’s pushing triple digit temperatures. Even though the windows are slightly cracked it has to be sweltering inside the car. What do you do?
This is a predicament that people run into on a regular basis. On average, 37 babies and toddlers die of heatstroke each year after being left in the car. Their small bodies aren’t able to regulate temperature as well as adults, which makes them more susceptible to death by hyperthermia. Experts estimate that thousands of children are “almost” accidentally left in cars each year, but fortunately the caretaker remembers before it’s too late or someone else intervenes.
The problem is even more common with dogs. Every year hundreds of dogs die from overheating in vehicles. On a hot day, a dog can die of a heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes. When you consider that on a 90-degree day the inside of a car can feel like 125-160 degrees, it’s easy easy to see why leaving a dog or child in a car is extremely dangerous.
And don’t think cracked windows offset the risk. Cracking the windows will allow for a little airflow, but it’s not enough to account for the temperature increase inside the car on a hot day.
So, what should you do if you find a child or dog locked in a vehicle?
FIRST– Assess the health of the child or dog and then take down the car’s information. Page the vehicle owner at the closest business establishment. Best case scenario: the owner will show up immediately and resolve the problem.
NEXT – If the owner doesn’t show right away, call the local humane authority or call 9-1-1. The primary concern is the safety of the child or dog, which means you need to act quickly.
EXTRACT – After trying to find the owner and alerting the authorities, if no one shows up in a timely manner and the dog or child’s health seems to be deteriorating it’s time for more drastic measures. Signs of heatstroke include excessive sweating, panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of coordination. Get another person (or people) to confirm your assessment then take action to get the child or dog out of the vehicle.
FINALLY – Once the child or dog is out, get them to an air-conditioned vehicle or building to cool down. It’s also important to give the child or dog water and get them to a hospital immediately if they have heatstroke symptoms.
ALWAYS – Keep an eye on the child or dog until the owner arrives to open the vehicle or the authorities arrive to help.
NEVER – It’s never productive to lose your cool during a situation that possibly involves the need for medical attention. Heightened emotions won’t make matters better for the child or dog that was left in the vehicle.
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