July 4, 2013 6:30 pm
Updated: July 4, 2013 6:43 pm

Halifax police warn about leaving kids, pets in cars on hot days

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HALIFAX – Police in Halifax have warned parents about the dangers of leaving their kids in cars.

“On a day like today the temperature inside your vehicle becomes extremely hot, extremely fast,” said Const. Pierre Bourdages of the Halifax Regional Police. “It’s dangerous, it’s careless and just don’t leave any animals or children in your vehicle.”

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The warnings follow the tragic death of a 3-year-old girl in Edmonton on Tuesday, in temperatures around 30 C. Less than a week earlier, a two-year-old boy who died in Milton, Ont. after being left unattended inside a car on a hot day.

Read more: Is leaving a child in a hot parked car a criminal offence?

The temperature topped 30 C in Halifax Regional Municipality on Thursday, but the humidity made it feel even hotter.

Environment Canada also issued a UV index of 9, or very high.

Shannon MacPhee, Chief of Emergency Medicine at the IWK Health Centre, said children are especially susceptible to extreme temperatures.

“It’s much more common in kids than in adults because the body’s ability to respond to the stress of a really hot environment is that much less,” she said.

Cars are particularly dangerous because they attract sunlight.

“In as short as 40 minutes the temperatures in the car can actually reach about 140 F (60 C) on a really really hot day,” said MacPhee. “And that’s even with the windows open a crack. And, so, those hot environments are really unsuitable for young children,”

If you think your child has been overexposed to heat, there are clear warning signs.

MacPhee said in the early stages your child will be thirsty, look dehydrated and be more tired than normal.

As the exposure progresses, your child could become confused or lethargic, and in extreme cases suffer from seizure or a coma, she explained

Luckily, she said, instances like the one in Edmonton on Tuesday, are very rare in Canada.

But John McKiggan, founder of Kids and Cars Canada, said one death is one too many.

He said deaths can occur not because parents don’t love their children, but because there are so many distractions in today’s world.

“What typically happens (is) someone’s jarred from their normal routine,” McKiggan said. “So, you normally take your child to daycare, but you’ve got to work. So, you ask your spouse, ‘Can you take our kid to daycare today?’ So, they get on the road, they get a phone call, they start thinking about work, and all of a sudden they’re on auto-pilot and they just drive to work. And they get to work and they simply forget about their passenger.”

McKiggan says it’s a mistake that you would never imagine you could make and there are ways to make sure you don’t. He suggests getting into habits that won’t allow you to forget about your child in the back seat.

“Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. Every time you put your child in that car seat, you put teddy beside you on the passenger seat. So, when you get to where you’re going teddy’s beside you, it means there’s a child behind you,” he said.

McKiggan said it’s simple, it doesn’t cost anything and it’s a helpful reminder that could be life saving.

Don’t forget about furry friends

Pets are equally susceptible to the high temperatures. And just like with kids, adults won’t always know when it’s too hot for their pets.

Nova Scotia’s SPCA is adding to the warning from police. Saying under no circumstances should pets be left alone in a car.

“(It) puts the dog or the animal or the cat in distress and they have no way of getting themselves cool and therefore they can be put in distress very quickly and be overcome by the heat,” says David Ross, the chief provincial inspector for the Nova Scotia branch of the SPCA.

Bourdages said while they do their best to get in touch with the owner, they will break a car window in order to get the pet out of the vehicle.

By the time of publication, on Thursday, HRP already had seven reports of animals left in vehicles.

Police said if you see a child or animal in distress you should contact 911 immediately.

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