(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – Tragically, dozens of children die after being left alone in hot cars each year. In fact, a recent national report says 52 children lost their lives in hot cars in 2018 – the highest number on record.

According to Baruch Fertel, M.D., an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, those at highest risk of being left alone in a car are infants and toddlers riding in rear-facing car seats, because they are less visible.

“We use rear-facing car seats for our littlest passengers, and with rear-facing car seats, you don’t see the child’s face; they often can sleep a lot, and those are the ones that are most vulnerable,” he said. Dr. Fertel said small children are more susceptible to the extremes of temperature because of their size. Even a short period of time in very hot temperatures can cause severe heat stroke or even death.

He said the inside of a car can reach deadly temperatures of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, in just a manner of minutes – even on a mildly warm and sunny day. It is never okay to leave a child alone in a car – even for a minute.

If you witness a child left alone in a car, even if the window is cracked, get involved and call for help, because intervention could potentially save a life. Dr. Fertel said most times these accidents occur because people are too distracted. “It can be good, loving, caring parents who find themselves victim to a tragedy,” he said.

“It’s important, that after we get out of the car, we get into a routine and always check the backseat. If someone’s a parent of small children, no matter what, they should go and look in the backseat, even if they’re sure their kid is not there, and check.”

Dr. Fertel also recommends keeping keys out of children’s reach at home and keeping the car doors locked when the car is parked in the driveway so that children cannot get into the car by themselves.

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