Summer Car Seat Safety Guide

Summer-specific situations call for additional care

summer car seat safety
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As the weather heats up, chances are you and your family might be spending more time in the car. From vacations to road trips to afternoon rides to the beach or pool to cool off, it's important to remember summer car seat safety for your little one as you travel and indulge in summer fun.

Managing the Heat in a Car Seat

Obviously, one of the biggest concerns during the summer is the relentless heat in the car.

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that heatstrokes in cars are the leading non-crash related cause of death by automobiles for children under the age of 14. An average of 37 children die every year as a result of a hot car and more than half of those children are under the age of 2. Most of these cases occur during the warmer months, although they're possible in the fall and winter too.

Heatstroke is common and dangerous in children because:

  • Kids' bodies heat up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult's, making them more at risk to overheat very quickly.
  • It doesn't take a lot of heat to kill a child. On a 72-degree day, a car can reach deadly temperatures in less than 30 minutes. 
  • Rolling the windows down doesn't help keep it cool.

General Tips for Car Summer Safety

  • Never leave a child alone. To help keep your child safe in the summer, the number one rule should be to never, ever leave a child alone in a parked car, especially during the summer. Not even for a "few minutes" or a quick errand, because you never know what could happen.
  • Talk to your child. If your child is older, also talk to him or her about what he should do if he ever gets trapped in a car. We did a "training session" with my toddler and preschooler, just in case. This is helpful in situations when you're not necessarily nearby—what if your child decides to climb into a car to play and gets trapped, for example? To prevent this, make it a habit to always keep cars and vehicles locked while parked, too.
  • Create a reminder. Experts recommend creating some kind of reminder system to help prevent a child from being left in the car. Most deaths occur when a parent or caregiver has a change in routine and goes on "auto-pilot," forgetting the child is in the car. For example, if you don't normally take your baby to daycare, but were supposed to drop him off in the morning, it would be easier for you to forget that he or she was there and walk into work.

    As a reminder, stash something in the backseat that you have to retrieve for work, like a badge or your cell phone, so you always get in the habit of checking your backseat, no matter what. Or, you could go a step further and purchase a baby car seat alarm for yourself and any caregivers. Also never be afraid to check in with your partner or other caregivers after drives with a quick text or call to make sure your child is safe.

On the Road Car Seat Safety Tips

Traveling with kids is always an interesting time, with many unexpected twists and turns. To keep your little one as safe as possible during long car trips, keep these tips in mind: 

  • BYOCS. Bring your own car seat, that is. Experts recommend not using car rental agency's car seats, simply because you don't know if the seat has been in a crash or if it's up-to-date with the latest safety recommendations.
  • Check for coolness. Because cars can get so hot so quickly and many car seats have metal latches, always check the car seat for coolness before placing your child in it.
  • Beware of heat rash. Summer is a notorious time for heat rashes, and rashes from sweaty skin coming into prolonged contact with the car seat fabric are possible. Some children are also more susceptible to rashes in general, either because they sweat more or have more sensitive skin.

    If you notice your child consistently getting rashes as a result of the car seat, there are a few things you can do.
    • Apply a diaper rash cream before a long trip to prevent chafing/irritation from the car seat/
    • Try washing the car seat cover to help remove any chemicals or coating that may be irritating the skin.
    • Call the car seat company to see if they would be willing to offer a different fabric car seat cover that might provide better air flow.
    • As a last resort, purchase a car seat that has specific air flow panels to cut down on heat rash.
  • Create a place for everything. While on long road trips, you'll obviously have a lot of supplies with you. To make traveling on a road trip more safe, be sure that everything has a place in the car as you ride. That means toys, games, and snacks should all be secured so they can't fly around and cause injury in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

Alternative Travel Options

If you're planning on hitting the road this summer or doing some traveling with family and friends, you may want to consider some safe and convenient travel options for your child. For example, the mifold Grab-and-Go Booster seat is a convenient, portable option for traveling that could make your travels a little easier.

This booster is designed for children ages 4 to 12 and is foldable and sleek, so it's convenient to use when traveling or when your child will be carpooling with friends or taking an afternoon trip with Grandpa.

For infants and toddlers, you may want to consider purchasing a lightweight convertible car seat that can be used as a "traveling" car seat. For example, our family purchased a lightweight, more affordable car seat to be used by our kids' grandparents to make afternoon outings or impromptu ice-cream runs easier for everyone.

There are many types of lightweight car seats on the market, but look for one that can accommodate babies and toddlers to really get the most for your money. The Disney line of carseats, including both the Minnie Car Seat and the Mickey Car Seat, are great options that are right around 50 bucks and very easy to buckle in.

Using Car Seats After Swimming

If you're heading home with your little one after a long day at the pool, you may be tempted to throw a towel underneath their suit so they don't soak through the car seat. Or, it may cross your mind to toss a towel underneath the car seat to protect your seats from sand and stray water drips.

In order for your car seat to work properly and do its job of protecting your child in the event of a crash, you should never put anything between your child and the car seat or the car seat and the car. In other words, towels are a big no-no. Never put a towel underneath your child before buckling him into his car seat and never put a towel underneath the actual car seat either.

Instead, be sure to pack a spare outfit of dry clothes to change your baby into, so he will be dry and comfortable on the way home. And if sand is an issue, consider throwing some baby powder into your beach bag. Sprinkle some baby powder on really sandy areas and the powder will absorb some of the moisture from the water, making it easy to brush excess sand off before you get in the car.

Sources:

Korioth, T. American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP News: Children left in cars can die of heatstroke in minutes. 2015.

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