UAE: Leaving children in locked cars can be fatal, say doctors

Even as little as a few minutes can be dangerous as children left alone risk death by suffocation



File photo
File photo
by

SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 5:04 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 10:30 PM

Doctors in the UAE have said that leaving a child unattended in a locked car can result in the child’s death, as a result of poisonous gases from the AC being inhaled.

A recent incident in Abu Dhabi has brought this practice into the spotlight. A child was left behind in a locked car when his parent went shopping; fortunately, however, police were able to rescue the two-year-old strapped into a car seat in good health.

“Leaving a child unattended in a locked car is dangerous as it might even result in the child’s death, and parents therefore must be cautious about this", said Dr Meenakshi Sesama, specialist paediatrics, Aster Clinic, Al Barsha. "We have had many cases before where a child left unattended in locked cars has suffered heatstroke or even lost consciousness due to breathing difficulties."

Photo: Dr Meenakshi Sesama
Photo: Dr Meenakshi Sesama

Dr Sesama explained that even as little as a few minutes could be dangerous as children left alone in cars may suffer heatstroke, or may even die of suffocation due to the lack of oxygen. “There have been incidents where victims locked up in cars inhaled poisonous carbon monoxide or Freon gases that resulted in their deaths.

Inhalation of carbon monoxide reduces oxygen flow, and once it reaches the brain, it can lead to unconsciousness, a coma, permanent brain damage, and even death,” she explained.

According to healthcare specialists, freon gas, also known as refrigerant poisoning, can irritate the eyes, ears, and throat. It can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and breathing difficulties, as well as a loss of consciousness, seizures, irregular heartbeats, and potentially even death.

Doctors have also said that the situation is dangerous regardless of whether the AC is switched on or off. “With the AC on, the same air being recycled repeatedly throughout the car can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. AC releases an odourless gas that is not detected and can result in agitation, confusion, and breathlessness", said Dr Gopal Chawla, specialist pulmonologist, NMC specialty Hospital DIP.

Dr Gopal Chawla
Dr Gopal Chawla

When a car is exposed to the sun or parked in narrow areas, the temperature inside the car can increase by 20 degrees in less than 10 minutes. This rise in temperature inside the car can lead to intense breathing difficulties.

“This is because when the AC is switched off, the sudden rise in temperature inside the car might cause the release of toxic gases from plastic or leather seats,” noted Dr Sesama.

Doctors have advised parents to leave their children home with some support. “It is better to take them with you to malls as there are many play areas with trained staff which can be utilised, and big stores nowadays have plenty of in-house playing areas for kids,” said Dr Chawla.

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