Primary Children's Hospital urging caregivers to never leave children in the car

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Kristopher Cope uses a Resqme seat belt/window breaker during a demonstration with Intermountain Children’s Health and public safety experts, who warned Utahns to never leave children in a vehicle on Friday.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Kristopher Cope uses a Resqme seat belt/window breaker during a demonstration with Intermountain Children’s Health and public safety experts, who warned Utahns to never leave children in a vehicle on Friday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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LEHI — A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult's, which is why Wyatt Argyle says it's so important children not be left inside cars during the summer months.

Argyle, the trauma program manager at the Miller Family campus of Primary Children's Hospital in Lehi, says nearly 40 children die each year in the U.S. after being left in a vehicle, and the number rose in 2018 and 2019 to 53 — the highest recorded number.

"All car tragedies can happen to anyone. They can happen when a caretaker forgets a child is in the car; this can be due to fatigue or a change of routine, which is common for families during vacations and summertime," Argyle said.

In Utah, between 1990 and 2022, 13 children died after being left in a hot car, and many others suffered heatstroke or injury, he said. A child can die when their core body temperature reaches just 107 degrees.

Primary Children's Hospital held a press conference on Friday to encourage parents and other caregivers never to leave children in the car, not even for a minute.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Kristopher Cope, who also spoke at the press conference, said if a child is alone in a car, the correct response is to call 911. If the child appears to be suffering from the heat, the next step is to remove them from the car as quickly as possible and help them cool down.

He demonstrated using a Resqme keychain on a window, shattering it in seconds. He said the tool should be used in the corner of a window; and if the glass doesn't fall out after it shatters, grab a stick to help pull the glass out.

These key chains will be available at various community events, and he said there are other rescue tools available.

Cope said in just 10 minutes, the temperature of a vehicle can go up 20 degrees, becoming deadly.

The National Weather Service on Friday issued an excessive heat watch for a large chunk of the Wasatch Front and northwest Utah, where temperatures may reach 102 degrees in some areas on Sunday. Though the watch is only for Sunday, the forecast calls for highs close to 100 degrees throughout at least the first half of next week.

July may also be hotter than normal in Utah, continuing a trend from the past few years. The Climate Prediction Center forecast lists all parts of Utah as having a 45-70% chance for above-normal temperatures in its July outlook.

Utah's last three Julys have all ended up among Utah's seven hottest Julys since 1895, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The month has been record-setting for places like Salt Lake City, which posted its three hottest Julys on record over the past three years with an average temperature of 86.1 degrees.

Michelle Jamison, community health program manager for Primary Children's Hospital, invited parents to take steps to remind them a child is in the back seat. She suggests:

  • Ordering a "spot the tot" window cling through Primary Children's website.
  • Setting bags in the back of the car by a child's car seat.
  • Leaving a child's toy or other item in view.
  • Create a habit of looking back before leaving the car.
  • Make sure doors are locked so children can't get back in and get stuck inside.

She said 1 in 4 deaths of children who heat up in cars happen because they got into a vehicle and couldn't get out. Jamison said if a child is missing, the first places parents should look are inside cars and in water.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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