Wellness Wednesday: Indoor Tanning is Not Safer than Sunbathing

ucm399147Exposure to UV radiation—whether from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds—increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age.


“Although some people think that a tan gives them a ‘healthy’ glow, any tan is a sign of skin damage,” says Sharon Miller, M.S.E.E., a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist and international expert on UV radiation and tanning.


“A tan is the skin’s reaction to exposure to UV rays,” says Miller. “Recognizing exposure to the rays as an ‘insult,’ the skin acts in self-defense by producing more melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. Over time, this damage will lead to prematurely aged skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.”

Indoor tanning is not a safe option

basetan_623_806Both UV-B and UV-A rays damage the skin and can lead to skin cancer. Tanning salons use lamps that emit both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

In July 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, concluded that tanning devices that emit UV radiation are more dangerous than previously thought. IARC moved these devices into the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.” Previously, it had categorized the devices as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

IARC concluded that there is convincing evidence of an association between the use of indoor tanning equipment and melanoma risk, and that the use of tanning beds should be discouraged.

“It’s well established that UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer,” says Miller. “Since lamps used in tanning beds emit UV radiation, the use of indoor tanning devices also increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Other Risks

In addition to the serious risk of skin cancer, tanning can cause:

  • Premature aging. Tanning causes the skin to lose elasticity and wrinkle prematurely. This leathery look may not show up until many years after you’ve had a tan or sunburn.
  • Immune suppression. UV-B radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, leaving you more vulnerable to diseases, including skin cancer.
  • Eye damage. Exposure to UV radiation can cause irreversible damage to the eyes.
  • Allergic reaction. Some people who are especially sensitive to UV radiation may develop an itchy red rash and other adverse effects.

Advocates of tanning devices sometimes argue that using these devices are less dangerous than sun tanning because the intensity of UV radiation and the time spent tanning can be controlled. But there is no evidence to support these claims. In fact, sunlamps may be more dangerous than the sun because they can be used at the same high intensity every day of the year—unlike the sun whose intensity varies with the time of day, the season, and cloud cover.

Tanning in Children and Teens

image-20150608-8697-1m0f3g2The FDA believes that limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen or sunblock are particularly important for children since these measures can prevent sunburn at a young age.

NCI reports that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma. Teenage girls and young women make up a growing number of tanning bed customers.

“Young people may not think they are vulnerable to skin cancer,” says Ron Kaczmarek, M.D., M.P.H., FDA epidemiologist. “They have difficulty thinking about their own mortality.”

Yet of the more than 68,000 people in the U.S. who will learn they have melanoma this year, one out of eight will die from it, according to NCI estimates. In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology reports that melanoma is the second most common cancer in women 20 to 29 years old.


Some states are considering laws to ban those under age 18 from using tanning beds. And many states now have laws that require minors to have a parent’s consent or be accompanied by a parent to the tanning facility.


“Parents should carefully consider the risks before allowing their children under 18 to tan,” says Miller.

The Riskiest Practices

The FDA, NCI, the American Academy of Dermatology, and other health organizations advise limiting exposure to natural UV radiation from the sun and avoiding artificial UV sources such as tanning beds entirely.

All use of tanning beds increases the risk of skin cancer. Certain practices are especially dangerous. These include:

  • Failing to wear the goggles provided, which can lead to short- and long-term eye injury.
  • Starting with long exposures (close to the maximum time for the particular tanning bed), which can lead to burning. Because sunburn takes 6 to 48 hours to develop, you may not realize your skin is burned until it’s too late.
  • Failing to follow manufacturer-recommended exposure times on the label for your skin type.
  • Tanning while using certain medications or cosmetics that may make you more sensitive to UV rays. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.

Source: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM190664.pdf

Wellness Wednesday: Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

img1Did you know? Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? Yet most skin cancers can be prevented.

Every year, there are 63,000 new cases of and 9,000 deaths from melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. A new CDC study shows that the majority of Americans are not using sunscreen regularly to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

In fact, fewer than 15% of men and fewer than 30% of women reported using sunscreen regularly on their face and other exposed skin when outside for more than 1 hour. Many women report that they regularly use sunscreen on their faces but not on other exposed skin.

Mom-sunscreenWhat is important to remember is that the sun produces dangerous UV rays, whether it’s sunny or a cloudy day.

UV rays, which can penetrate cloud cover, damage the DNA of skin cells, which causes the melanin in the body to rush to that site and try to compensate for the damage. Melanin is responsible for the pigment (color) of your skin. So when this happens, the skin changes color … pink or red for some, tan or brown for others. Whichever color your skin becomes (sunburn or suntan), both are a result of damaged skin cell DNA caused by ultraviolet rays.

Sometimes this damage affects certain genes that control how skin cells grow and divide. If these genes no longer work properly, the affected cells may become cancer cells. 

Sun Protection Strategies That Work

  • Use broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ to protect any exposed skin.
  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear sunglasses, a hat that covers your ears, and other clothes to protect skin.
  • Sunscreen works best when used with shade or clothes, and it must be re-applied every two hours and after swimming, sweating and toweling off.

Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


More Information

Protect Your Family from Skin Cancer

Suncreen: The Burning Facts

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens

NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure

 

Wellness Wednesday: Keeping Little Ones Safe in the Sun

SunSafetyInfantsIt’s beach time! But when you bring your family to the beach, how do you protect your little ones? Sunscreens are recommended for children and adults. But what about babies?

According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun.

“Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults.” explains Sachs. “Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.”

Sachs says the best protection is to keep your baby in the shade, if possible. And if there’s no natural shade, create your own with an umbrella or the canopy of the stroller.

“If there’s no way to keep an infant out of the sun, you should check with your pediatrician about what to do for your baby.” If your pediatrician agrees, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen—with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15—to small areas such as the cheeks and back of the hands. Sachs suggests testing your baby’s sensitivity to sunscreen by first trying a small amount on the inner wrist.

Cover Up

The best way to protect an infant in the sun is to keep skin from being exposed. As much as possible, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. Use a hat with a brim that covers your baby’s neck and ears they don’t shade the neck and ears, sensitive areas for a baby.

Other Challenges

“Younger infants don’t sweat like we do,” Sachs says. “Sweat naturally cools the rest of us down when we’re hot, but babies haven’t yet fully developed that built-in heating-and-cooling system. So you want to make sure your baby doesn’t get overheated.”

“In the heat, babies are also at greater risk of becoming dehydrated. To make sure they’re adequately hydrated, offer them their usual feeding of breast milk or formula,” says Sachs. “The water content in both will help keep them well hydrated.

Sun Safety Tips for Infants

BabyTentHere are some things to keep in mind this summer when outside with infants:

  • Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible.
  • Consult your pediatrician before using any sunscreen on your baby. If you do use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby, don’t assume the child is well protected.
  • Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin. Use common sense; if you hold the fabric against your hand and it’s so sheer that you can see through it, it probably doesn’t offer enough protection.
  • Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade at all times.
  • Watch your baby carefully to make sure he or she doesn’t show warning signs of sunburn or dehydration. These include fussiness, redness and excessive crying.
  • Hydrate! Give your baby formula or breast milk if you’re out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Don’t forget to use a cooler to store the liquids.
  • Take note of how much your baby is urinating. If it’s less than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration, and that more fluids are needed until the flow is back to normal.
  • Avoid combination sunscreens containing insect repellants like DEET. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths. According to the AAP, DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
  • If you do notice your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM309579.pdf

Wellness Wednesday: Reducing Your Risk of Skin Cancer

July is UV Safety Month … and for good reason.

Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round. However, exposure to UV rays from sunlight is the greatest during the summer months.

This is because you’re spending more time outside. You’re near or in the water. And you’re wearing less and/or lighter clothing than in the colder months. So your skin is more exposed to potentially damaging rays.

The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days, because clouds block visible light, not UV. Many people don’t realize they are getting too much sun when it is overcast or if there is a light wind.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors. UV rays reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow. So days spent at the beach or near a pool, are crucial times to apply and reapply sunscreen and take protective measures, such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

Suntanners beware. It doesn’t matter that you have that envious olive color skin. You are still damaging your skin. We hear it all the time: “I don’t burn; I tan. So I don’t have to worry.” Wrong!

sunburnWhen your skin is exposed to UV rays, your body makes melanin to try to protect the deeper layers of your skin from damage. Melanin is what gives your skin color. Some people produce more melanin, so their skin is naturally darker.

When your skin is damaged by the sun’s rays, your body’s defense mechanism is to make more melanin to shield your skin cells from additional damage. The melanin absorbs ultraviolet light and causes the skin to change color. Those who produce more melanin will typically tan. Those who are fair-skinned do not produce as much melanin, so instead of tanning, they just burn. But even those who tan can get a sunburn if they spend a lot of time out in the sun.

The result is still that the UV rays are actually damaging the DNA of your skin cells. Once this happens, those cells die and the body’s reaction to this is to begin flooding the area with blood to help with the healing process. And as you can guess, that is what causes the bright red glow of a sunburn.

So no matter which camp you fall in, you should always wear sunscreen before going outside. Here are some additional recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

Shade

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even if you’re in the shade.

Clothing

Enjoying Playing in the Sand TogetherClothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its UV protection factor.

If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

Hat

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.

If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the U.S., regardless of cost, meet this standard.

Sunscreen

swimmingoldermanPut on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Be careful not to forget ears, tops of feet, behind your knees, and other spots that might be exposed. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.

How sunscreen works. Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.

SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.

Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Cosmetics. Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Dermatology


More information:

Sunscreen: The Burning Facts
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

FDA Sheds Light on Sunscreens
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Wellness Wednesday: Fireworks Safety

Independence dayWe’re coming up on the 4th of July. Hooray for long weekends, parties, good food and good times!

Of course, we should never forget why we are actually blessed with this 3-day weekend. So we celebrate the birthplace of our nation with cheer, American flags, ceremonies and (of course) fireworks.

Unfortunately, this is also the time of year when the emergency department sees a bit of an uptick in the number of abrasions, burns and more serious injuries stemming from these brightly burning festive sticks of fire. So, this is why we urge you to please, please leave the fireworks to the professionals!

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), eight people died and more than 11,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents in 2013. Additionally, fireworks caused an estimated 15,600 reported fires in the U.S., including 1,400 structure fires, 200 vehicle fires, and 14,000 outside and other fires.

Safe Fireworks?

fireworksThere are no such thing as completely safe fireworks. But there are ways to keep you and your family safe during a fireworks celebration.

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

Sparklers

Many people think sparklers are the perfect way for a child to be part of a 4th of July celebration. They can wave them around, make swirls and letters and everyone has a good time.

Except when they don’t.

Sparklers can burn anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and many children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet.

The CPSC reports that approximately 16 percent of all consumer fireworks injuries are caused by sparklers burning hands and legs. Young children account for the majority of sparkler injuries.

As disappointed as they may be, do not let children younger than 12 hold a sparkler. They often lack the physical coordination to handle sparklers safely and likely will not know what to do in an emergency. Close supervision of older children is necessary.

Pets and FireworksFourth of July kitten

No, we’re not going to tell you to not let your pet play with fireworks. We sincerely hope you already know that is a very, very bad idea! And if not, I guess this serves as us telling you.

It is important though to keep pets safe over the 4th of July holiday. And this does include keeping them away from fireworks but not just because of injury.

July 5 is the busiest day of the year for pet shelters. This is because so many animals become anxious and frightened by the loud noises of fireworks and escape their yards, homes and leashes.

We recommend you leave your pets at home when attending any celebration this weekend. And even at home, you should take precautions even if your pet has never ran away or escaped before.

And it’s not just dogs. Many people have barbecues and parties for the holiday. This means a lot of people going in and out of the house, including children, leaving the door open long enough for a quick escape.

So it’s probably best to make sure your pet is in a secure inside room with plenty of food and water and someplace to tuck into when the loud noises start.

It’s also a time when a lot of different foods are left out and are sometimes dropped on the floor. So there is a greater chance of your pet getting hold of a food that may not be very good for him. Also the ASPCA notes, that citronella-based repellants, oils, candles and insect coils are irritating toxins to pets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and ASPCA recommend that you consider microchipping your pet, even if he spends all his time indoors. And you should be sure the information on the chip is kept up to date with your current phone and address or Veterinarian information.

Conclusion

We want this to be an enjoyable, festive and safe holiday weekend for you, and your family (including your pets). So please play it safe and Happy 4th of July!

Sources: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Council of Fireworks Safety, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association.


More information:

NFPA Fireworks Infographic

National Council on Fireworks Safety

CPSC Fireworks Information Center

AVMA: July 4th Safety

ASPCA: Fourth of July Safety Tips

 

Wellness Wednesday: Safety First, Last and Always

It’s June. And that means backyard barbecues, pool parties and kids home for the summer …which makes it the perfect time to talk about safety!

Warning SignJune is National Safety Month. That doesn’t mean you can ignore the rules of safety during the other 11 months of the year. It just means it’s time for us to focus on what it means to practice proper safety methods in everything we do, every day of the year.

During the summer, that means practicing sun and fun safety. Here are some summer safety tips:

Wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and seek shade. You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade or shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when in the shade.

Keep children and pets safe. Do not leave pets or children in hot cars or near a pool alone. It only takes 5-10 minutes for a car to reach dangerous levels! And do not leave your pets outside unsupervised or for long periods of time without shade. They have a much harder time regulating temperature than humans.

Don’t let safety take a vacation. Always remain aware of your surroundings while on vacation. Carry your purse or wallet close to your body or in a front pocket. Never share on social media that you are going to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Let someone at home know where you will be at all times and how to reach you in case of emergency.

Be safe at the beach. Always swim near a lifeguard stand, and listen to what the lifeguards tell you. Never take your eyes off children and don’t assume the lifeguard or someone else is watching them. Beware of dangerous rip currents, which can occur in any open body of water. If caught in a rip current swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, then swim to shore.

Never, ever swim alone. Just don’t do it! Even if you’re an excellent swimmer, you can’t plan for every emergency. A child or an adult can drown in mere seconds.

Hear thunder? Get out of the water! If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Lightning kills an average of 49 people in the U.S. each year. And in the water is the most dangerous place to be in a storm. Wait at least a half hour after hearing the last rumble of thunder before entering the water again.

Young boy wearing flotation device holds onto edge of poolSecure your backyard pool. Tragically, over 300 children under the age of 5 drown in backyard swimming pools each year. And it is not always even their own pool. 33 percent of drowning incidents happened in a pool owned by friends, relatives or neighbors. So make sure you have the proper enclosure or fencing for your pool, even if you don’t have children. This isn’t just a suggestion. Pool safety barrier guidelines have been written into most residential building codes. Also, children can drown in as little as one inch of water so empty kiddie swimming pools when finished with them as well.

Leave the fireworks to the professionals. If you do use fireworks, keep a bucket of water handy and use them in a clear area away from buildings and trees. Make sure to obey your state’s laws regarding fireworks. Never let children use fireworks!

When picnicking, carry food in a cooler with cold packs. Keep your cold food cold. Food can spoil much quicker in warmer weather. Clean produce and keep any raw meats separately. Be sure to cook food thoroughly and never reuse utensils or serving plates that have been used to carry raw meats.

These are just some of the most important safety tips you should always remember to keep yourself and your family safe. And these apply not only during the summer months but all year round.

What are some other summer safety tips you’d recommend?

Sources: American Red Cross, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Food and Drug Administration

 

Wellness Wednesday: No Child Left Behind

Toddler boy sleeping in car seatIt’s that time of year again. The heat waves, days at the pool or beach, and a steamy hot car. We’ve all been there. Your car has been out in the sun for hours and you first get inside. Your sunglasses steam up and the steering wheel burns your hands. Wow, it’s hot in there!

Now imagine that when you open the car door, you realize your child had been in the backseat.

Yes. It’s almost unimaginable. It’s horrifying. And yet it happens. Sometimes it’s semi-intentional …  mom or dad figures little Tommy is sleeping and he/she just needs a couple things. So I’ll run into the store alone. I won’t be long. Then mom or dad runs into an old friend or is stuck in a particularly long line. A ‘few minutes’ grows longer and Tommy is in danger.

Sometimes, though rarely, it’s a crime … a parent intentionally leaves a child to die for whatever horrible reason.

But most often, it is simply a horrific, tragic accident. A rushed mom or dad, who isn’t the usual daycare drop-off parent, drives straight to work forgetting Tommy is in the back because he’s quiet. And mom or dad only realizes the mistake when he/she approaches the car at the end of the workday.

What?! How can you forget your child? A cell phone, your lunch, paperwork … yes. But your child??

We’ve all said this. We try not to judge; but in our minds, we are thinking the same thing, “How can a parent not remember his or her child is in the car? I could never do that.”

But you could. Anyone can. It’s all in your mind.

Baby Car seat
Tip: Experts suggest leaving a stuffed toy in your car seat and when you place your baby in the car, move the toy to the front seat as a reminder the car seat is occupied.

Have you ever started driving to work and suddenly realize you arrived and have hardly a recollection of the actual movements of getting there? You’ve done it so many times, it’s a ‘habit’ and as if you’re on autopilot. You no longer have to think, “I need to make a left here, a right there.” According to memory expert David Diamond, Ph.D., there are scientific, biological explanations for this.

There are separate areas of the brain that are for short-term memory (hippocampus), for thinking/analyzing information (prefrontal cortex), and for voluntary but barely conscious actions (basal ganglia)—like driving to work every day. These areas typically work in harmony with each other but experts say outside forces, such as stress, can throw a proverbial wrench into the operation.

Stress can weaken the areas of the brain responsible for immediate memory and analyzing, which then allows the basal ganglia to essentially take control. So if you’re a parent who is suddenly the one taking Tommy to daycare in the morning, which is out of routine for you, and you are sleep-deprived and stressed and have a million things on your mind (like every parent out there, ever!), you put Tommy in the car and set off to daycare, but your mind is going through the day’s ‘To Do’ list and Tommy is quiet. Now, as you’re driving, the part of your brain responsible for getting you from point A to point B takes over and follows its normal routine—home to work. You’ve forgotten all about daycare. Or more likely, you arrive at work thinking you actually did drop Tommy off at daycare.

The medical explanation for how a parent can walk away from a car without realizing their child is inside is called Forgotten Baby Syndrome. Diamond, who is an expert in cognitive and neural sciences at the University of South Florida, says it’s a form of memory lapse involving the portions of the brain that store new information and help plan for the future.

“It is the hippocampus that processes that a child is in the car, while the prefrontal cortex enables a parent to plan the route, including a change in plans to go to daycare rather than straight to work,” says Diamond.

It’s not an excuse. But it is an explanation of how the unthinkable can happen. And it is a reason to set into habit a different routine … one that ensures Tommy’s safety every day, especially when stress levels are high.wheresbaby4

Experts suggest you get in the habit of always, always opening the back door of your car after leaving your vehicle. This tip has actually morphed into a campaign from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), called “Look Before You Lock,” which was created to ensure a child is never left behind.

Here are some additional tips to keep your ‘Tommy’ safe:

  • Create a reminder to check the back seat. Always put the items you will need like your cell phone, handbag, employee ID or brief case, etc., in the back seat so that you have to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park. Do not let yourself simply reach around and grab it from the driver’s seat. You must get out and open the back door.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. It’s a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
  • Always place the car seat on the passenger side of the vehicle, not behind the driver. It is easier to see and remember the child.
  • Be especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. This is when many tragedies occur. There are apps you can download and gadgets you can buy that will also signal a reminder. But you don’t want to become reliant on those technologies.
  • Keep a note posted to your computer at work, “Did you drop Tommy off at daycare this morning?” or “What did [caregiver’s name] say before you left Tommy at daycare today?” This might trigger a reminder that you never saw the caregiver this morning.
  • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely. Make sure that your daycare or caregiver is someone who will contact you if your child is expected but doesn’t arrive. If schools can follow up on truant children, so can your daycare.

Additionally … children can also find their way into unlocked parked cars on the street. So always, always lock your car doors. You should do this not only to protect your car and any valuables inside of it from theft, but also from a child (maybe not even your own) finding his/her way into your car and accidentally locking the doors.

Sources: NHTSA, kidsandcars.org, parents.com


Additional Information:

www.kars4kids.org/safety-app
www.kidsandcars.org/heatstroke
Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?
Yes, You Could Forget Your Kid in the Car—I Did