AFTER the deaths of two children in hot cars in Canada this week, Winnipeg drivers are being reminded not to leave children or pets unattended in vehicles.
A three-year-old Edmonton girl died Wednesday in hospital after she was found in a parked car, Edmonton police said. The week before, a two-year-old Ontario boy died after he was left in a hot car in Milton, Ont., west of Toronto.
In the United States, 15 children have died from vehicular heatstroke so far this year, according to a survey by Golden Gate Weather Services. In 2012, vehicular heatstroke killed 32 children in the U.S.
Const. Jason Michalyshen of the Winnipeg Police Service said the police respond to a "handful" of Winnipeg incidents each year in which children or pets are left in cars.
"The number is low. It's certainly not a daily occurrence, but during the hotter weeks there are occasions that we do respond," Michalyshen said.
He said the police service tells people not to leave children in cars even for a short time.
"Oftentimes, people will say, 'I just went in for a minute,' and that might very well be the case," he said.
"Really, children shouldn't be left (unattended) on any occasion in vehicles, regardless of the weather and weather conditions."
The biggest reason children are in danger is because they're smaller, said Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Manitoba. Like any mass, he said, the bigger a person is, the slower they warm up or cool down. So a small mass such as a child would heat up quicker.
"The bigger the mass, the bigger the body, the slower it's going to warm up. So if you put a little kid in a hot environment, you've got the same amount of heat attacking the body... but the child has a smaller body to heat up," Giesbrecht said.
In addition, he said the body deals with an increase in temperature worse than a drop in temperature.
"You could drop somebody's temperature five to 10 degrees and they might even still be functional, but if you raise somebody's temperature three degrees or four, you're starting to get to an area where you could do some serious damage," he said.
It's not only children who are in danger in hot cars. Erika Anseeuw is the director of animal health at the Winnipeg Humane Society. She said pets can be in danger in cars even on days that aren't extremely hot.
"I've seen dogs become distressed and actually die on a reasonably cool day, like a 20-degree day, but with bright sun," Anseeuw said.
Some pets deal with heat worse than others, she said. In particular, short-faced dogs such as boxers and pugs can't cool as easily as others.
"If you have to run errands, don't take your pet with you, because sometimes you get caught up longer than you thought," Anseeuw said.
Judy Murphy, president and CEO of Safety Services Manitoba, said often people underestimate how long they'll be gone from their cars and how fast the cars heat up.
"It doesn't take very long for the temperature in that car to get very hot," Murphy said.
She said drivers should always take their children with them out of the car, and if need be, find ways to remind themselves to do this.
"(Get) something to remind you, whether that means leaving a child's toy in the seat or putting your purse right next to the child in the backseat," Murphy said.
Kidsandcars.org, a U.S organization that advocates for child safety around cars, has a list of tips for parents travelling with children in their car. Among these, the website says to leave a stuffed animal in the unoccupied passenger seat to remind parents a child is in the backseat. It also says to always open the back door of a car when reaching a destination to build the habit of checking for children.