Keep Your Kids Safe In the Car This Summer: A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

car seat in car


Ambivalence is my personal feeling about summer. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy it. It’s just that I love fall to the point that it’s almost unhealthy. I’ve lived my entire 32 years in Florida. It’s always summer here; most all the time. We don’t have spring. We don’t have winter. We have this random season we call fall from Halloween through Christmas where it’s hot all day long but blissfully cool and not at all humid in the mornings and evenings. I call it fall because I love the idea of fall – I just love it. Summer is here all the time, so it’s always boat day, beach day, pool day.

We use the grill on our back deck all the time. We play outside year round. We sweat thinking about walking into our sweltering garage into our sweltering cars. Summer is dangerous here, and it’s dangerous everywhere. However, I had no idea just how many hidden, lurking dangers are around every single corner until today. I can say that in my eight years of parenting (well, next month it’ll be 8 years since our oldest was born), I’ve never experienced anything like this.

It terrified me. It made my heart stop. I’m still shaking, and it’s been hours since it happened. I had no idea; and I’m wondering if any other parents have ever thought about this themselves. I know I didn’t, and the guilt is eating me from the inside out. What am I talking about? Well, let me start from the beginning.

We have four kids (I know, I know; we wanted three but God saw fit to make that third baby a set of boy/girl twins and freak us out, even if we now think His plan was more than just a little divine). Our oldest will be 8 next month. Our middle daughter turned 5 in March, and our twins turned 2 in March. It’s summer vacation around here. I work from home, so the kids are with me. My husband’s office is almost an hour away, so I’m on my own Monday thru Friday from 7 am to 5 pm with the littles for the most part.

Today, our oldest daughter began Basketball camp. I had to have her there this morning and pick her up this afternoon. She is so excited about it, and she had the best time. I typically use my push to start button on my car from the house to cool it off, take the kids out into the garage and load them in (double and triple checking to make sure the garage door is open and stays that way). It takes me a few minutes since my 5-year-old struggles with her buckles on her car seat and the twins both have to be buckled in. Once I get one twin in the car, I run into the house and grab the other (doors locked before I walk into the house from the garage even though the car is never out of my sight).

I drive an SUV. I have four kids; I need one. My kids have their own climate control buttons in the second and third rows – and they have vents above their heads where the air comes out. I always set the air on the coldest setting since it’s 100 degrees here, and I turn it all the way up.

Today, I picked the twins up out of their car seats. I grab my daughter first, put her in my right arm and use my left to unbuckle her twin brother and hoist him up into my left arm so I can carry them both into the house together (I’m a beast, really, in terms of my upper arm strength since having them). When I picked up my daughter from the back seat today, I thought it seemed awfully warm. When I got the twins into the house, I changed their diapers. When I pulled their shorts down, that’s when I noticed both of them had red, blistery welts on the back of their legs.

I panicked and called my husband, and then the pediatrician. I was scared. They were awful, and they were all over the backs of both their legs, and the backs of their arms and on their backs. It was like they’d been burned, but by what? That’s when the pediatrician asked me to check to make sure the air in the back of my SUV was working properly.

What?

Of course it is. I haven’t even had that car a full six weeks yet! It’s brand new! To appease him, however, I went into the garage. The vents were open. I opened the door, turned on the car and that’s when I realized that for the 45 minutes we were in the car in 95 degree temperatures, the twins were suffering. Their car seats were burning. Burning. They are always warm from the heat when we first get into the car which is why I always push to start – I was so hot and so stressed getting all three of them back into the car after dropping their sister off today in the blazing heat while the twins screamed for their cups and for a snack that I didn’t even realize how hot they were.

The big girls were cold, so they turned the heat on in the back seat, full blast to 90 degrees. The kids had the sun blazing down on them from the back sunroof, the heat on 90 degrees and it was on full blast. When I was cooled off to the point of comfortable in the front, I turned my air from 60 to 75 and from high to low. For 45 minutes, those babies burned because I asked them if they were cold and all three kids said, “No,” to me.

There are dangers lurking everywhere in summer. It’s not just the closed cars turned off and kids locked in, or the pools where kids drown, or the boating accidents, or the kids playing outdoors and getting bitten by snakes or bugs; it’s our own moments of carelessness or even our complete lack of realization as to what is going on.

Fortunately, my babies are fine and already looking a million times better after putting some medication on what the doctor called a very severe heat rash and some scary but not too serious burns. They’re happy and seem to feel good.

Before you get into the car this summer, check those back temperatures. Make sure they’re cold. Make sure the vents are open, and make sure you talk to your kids about playing with that heat. It’s not a joke. It’s dangerous, and we might not even know it.

Photo by Good Housekeeping 

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