Heatstroke symptoms can begin within minutes for an infant or toddler left in a car with the engine turned off on a warm day, but there are tools available for parents to help prevent such tragedies.
Dr. Jenna Wheeler is a pediatric critical care physician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. In the ICU, she sees critically ill children, including those suffering from severe heat stroke, which affects significant organs quickly.
On average, 38 children under 15 die of heatstroke every year after being left in a vehicle, according to Noheatstroke.org.
Wheeler said these types of tragedies happen under different circumstances.
"There are people who leave their children in the car, obviously not trying to cause any injury, but just thinking, 'Oh, I'm just going to run in real quick and grab something.' And maybe they get caught talking to a neighbor longer than they anticipated," Wheeler explained.
More than half of all child vehicle heatstroke deaths were because a child was forgotten inside a car compared to 20% who were knowingly left inside a car, according to Noheatstroke.org.
"Most parents who have infants at that point, they're sleep-deprived, they're tired. We all sit here and say, how could it happen?" Wheeler said. "It's just little things that we would think would be at the forefront of our mind. When you're tired, when you're busy, when you're juggling, life can very innocently be forgotten but has very devastating consequences."
In recent years, innovative technology has emerged that uses sensors and apps to alert a parent of a forgotten child.
Here are seven options that provide a helpful reminder to often busy and tired parents and guardians.
Waze ‘Child Reminder’
The free navigation app Waze is available for iPhone and Android and comes with a "child reminder" notification option.
To set it up, go to the app settings and scroll down to "notifications." Select "reminders" and turn on the child reminder. The app then allows you to enter a custom message that will pop up once you reach your destination.
Built-in: End-of-trip reminders and occupant sensing alerts
Major automakers have agreed to add a rear-seat reminder to all vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2025, but some of those safety features now come standard.
Many newer vehicles come with built-in safety features that will provide a helpful reminder to the driver at the end of a trip or a sensor that detects motion in a car when it has been locked.
Consumer Reports has a list of 2022 vehicles that currently have end-of-trip reminders. Some of these will come ready to go from the factory, while other cars need activated settings.
Some new Hyundai, Genesis and Kia vehicles have rear occupant alerts that use sensors to detect motion in the backseat after the car is off and locked. Drivers can also subscribe to receive text alerts when motion is detected.
There are a variety of after-market back seat reminder alarm systems. Safewise.com researched the devices and found the Ride N Remind Back Seat Reminder System as a reliable solution.
The alarm can be bought on Amazon for $150. The vehicle alarm will be activated when the rear door opens and closes. If the door is opened and the baby is in the backseat for more than 40 seconds, the car's horn will alert you to check the back seat.
These alarm kits require a little more setup and can be installed by car audio professionals.
Smart car seats
There are Smart TVs, Smart homes and now Smart car seats.
Cybex has a line of car seats using SensorSafe technology. When a child is clipped in and the sensor is activated, it alerts parents via an app if the clip has been opened or if a child has been in the car seat for more than 2 hours. The sensor also alerts parents if the temperature in the car interior exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The SensorSafe clips are only meant to be used with specific Cybex car seats. Be sure to check the SensorSafe product capability before using it.
Kars for Kids Safety App
The Kars for Kids Safety app is currently only available on Google Play. The app pairs with Bluetooth phones and cars and alerts drivers to check the backseat when they leave their vehicle with their cellphone. The alert can be customized with a photo of your child and the sound of the alarm.
Tata Pad car seat sensor
This year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), child safety technology was at the forefront, including a Tata Pad by Filo display.
The baby car seat alarm works with models currently on the market and has been car crash tested. After purchasing the car seat pad and installing it, download the Tata Pad app and follow the prompts for emergency contacts and connect it to Bluetooth.
Should you leave the baby in the car seat, the first alarm will notify you on your phone within 3 minutes of walking away from the car. If the first alarm is not disabled, you'll receive a warning call from the Tata Pad cloud service. Finally, if the first two alarms do not work, Tata will send text messages and calls to your emergency contacts. Emergency contacts can then request the last seen location of the child.
The Tata Pad can be purchased online for $62.
Effective low-tech reminders
Wheeler said there are plenty of technology-free ways to help remind busy parents to check the backseat.
"Put a stuffed animal in the child's car seat. When the child is in the car seat, you move the stuffed animal to the front seat so that it triggers you to think, 'hey, there's a stuffed animal here,' Wheeler said. "When you take the child out, you put the stuffed animal back in the car seat."
Other reminders include leaving anything in the backseat you wouldn't get far without, like your purse, shoes or cellphone.