Police: "Leaving a child in the car is considered child abuse"

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COLUMBIA - Summer is always a dangerous time for heat exhaustion and heatstroke and a leaving a child or pet in a hot car is life-threatening.

Dr. John Mruzik of Boone Convenient Care said it only takes a matter of minutes for a hot car to become life-threatening.

With the air conditioning off and the windows up, especially in a summer like this, the car will get up to 120, even 130 degrees, Fulton Police Department Major Roger Rice said.

Leaving kids in hot cars is considered child abuse and punishable in a court of law, said Rice.

"Everyone needs to keep in mind that this is a situation that could be life-threatening," Rice said.

"If you feel like the child is in imminent danger it's you're obligation to get that child out," said Rice. He recommends first to assess the situation to see if the adult is nearby that can open the car, if not call police, then get the child out of the car as fast as you can.

"The child's life is number one," Rice said. "Use whatever you need to get that child out, up to, and including breaking the window."

Rice said there is no punishment if you have to break the car window to help a child in distress.

Once the child is out, try to move them to air conditioning. If there's anything to drink available, try and get them to start re-hydrating until police arrive, Rice said.

"Children have a smaller area to loose heat from and may not be able to express in terms of how thirsty or how bad they feel so they're at a very high risk [of heat exhaustion]," Dr. Mruzik said.

Some symptoms of heat exhaustion include rapid pulse, low blood pressure, feeling light-headed. Worse situations can lead to heat stroke with feelings of being mentally impaired, nausea and body cramps.

"Most of the time when people leave their animals or kids in the car 'It's just for a few minutes'. They're just going to run inside real quick and they're going to come right back out," Rice said.