High heat danger to kids, pets

Editorial; By Emily Wessel, Merritt Herald - sad story out of Milton, Ontario

Editorial; By Emily Wessel, Merritt Herald

A sad story out of Milton, Ont. on Thursday has left a hole in a family where a two-year-old boy used to be.

The boy died from heat exposure after he was left in a car for a significant portion of the day outside his family’s home, according to police.

The boy was reportedly in his grandmother’s care at the time as his mother was at an appointment and his father was at work.

The death is being investigated by the homicide unit, as is protocol in cases with deceased children under five years old.

The boy’s body was found Wednesday, when temperatures hit above 30 degrees Celsius in the community of about 80,000 in the Greater Toronto Area, but officers said the temperature inside the car soared as high as 50 degrees.

Exposure to extreme heat can cause organ failure. Heat can be deadly when the body’s core temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit, when sweating is no longer possible for cooling and the core temperature continues to rise.

According to a press release from the Canada Safety Council, children are especially at risk for heat stroke because they can’t sweat like adults without fully developed sweat glands. The organization estimates a child’s core temperature rises three times faster than that of an adult.

The story made national headlines, no doubt because of the entirely preventable nature of the incident.

It shouldn’t take a tragic, preventable death like this one to remind people that hot cars pose an extreme danger to children.

High temperatures in vehicles can also be devastating to pets left inside, even with the windows down. Take Tonka, the French bulldog who was left in a car in Ottawa for over an hour on a day that the humidity raised the temperature to 34 degrees Celsius.

Tonka was the Ottawa Humane Society’s 15th rescue of a pet from hot car since last Monday. The dog was so dehydrated it was unable to stand once rescued. Even with the windows open, the temperature inside the car was dangerous for the little dog. The owner has been charged under the Ontario SPCA Act for failing to protect the pooch from harmful temperatures.

It only takes 20 minutes for the interior of a vehicle to reach extreme temperatures.

The safety council recommends vehicle owners keep their vehicle doors and trunk locked when the vehicle is parked and unattended to prevent a child from entering without being able to get out.

How many times have you popped into the grocery store “just for a minute” but run into a friend, remember something you’d neglected to pick up before, maybe do a little browsing, and end up emerging 20 or 30 minutes later?

When there’s a little one in the car, the minutes count.

With summer temperatures finally upon us in Merritt, it’s critical that we don’t leave our people and pets unattended in vehicles — not even for a minute.