Doctor warns of dangers of leaving children alone in vehicles after bus tragedy

Dubai Police also issued a safety call to parents after the death of a six-year-old boy left on a bus for hours in the heat of summer

Mohamed Farhan Faisal and his father, Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi. Courtesy Karakunhi family
Powered by automated translation

A doctor has warned children are at greater risk of suffering the damaging effects of heat exposure, after the death of a Dubai schoolboy forgotten on a bus for hours in the summer sunshine.

Mohamed Farhan Faisal, 6, is believed to have suffocated after being left behind on the bus hired by Al Manar Islamic Centre on Saturday.

The tragedy sparked calls from his father, Mohamed Faisal Karakunhi, 50, and fellow parents for greater safety measures to be introduced to protect children using transport services.

Dr Anuradha Ajesh, a specialist paediatrician at Bareen International Hospital in Mohamed bin Zayed City, Abu Dhabi, cautioned against leaving children exposed to excessive temperatures for "even a moment".

Her safety pleas come as temperatures soared towards 50C across the Emirates this week.

Dr Ajesh said children are more likely to suffer from dehydration or heat exhaustion than adults.

"In this heat it is not advisable to leave the child in the car even for a moment," said Dr Ajesh.

"Children's body surface area is proportionately large compared to the size of their organs and they have thinner skin. So, they have a risk of excessive fluid loss.”

Children sweat less compared to adults, thus taking more time to cool down while their metabolic rate is also higher than adults, she said.

“If they are left in a car they can suffer heat exhaustion. Compared to adults, they are at higher risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke," she said.

The doctor's safety message was echoed by Dubai Police, who warned that even a single second of 'negligence' can prove fatal.

"One second of negligence can lead to losing your kid forever. Never leave your child alone in the car,” tweeted Dubai Police.

In an accompanying awareness video, the force said it rescues more than 100 children from locked cars every year.

Zarina Dalati, 34, a Dubai-based mother to a five-year-old, said proper training should be given to anybody supervising children for any period of time.

"Any adult who is taking care of children be it the parents, the nanny, an aunt or an uncle, should be trained and made aware that they cannot leave children alone in the car in this heat as the child may get dehydrated."

Ms Dalati said she makes it a point to never leave her child unattended, even if it would be for only a matter of minutes.

Aleah Mellett, a Filipino mother of a three-year-old boy also said she does not leave her child alone in a car.

"I am paranoid. Before I gave birth, I heard about incidents where children were left in cars. I know people who go to get something and just leave their child in the car," said Ms Mellett.

"Don’t ever leave the children alone in the car and always double check."

The danger signs of heat exposure

The temperature inside a car is 30C to 40C hotter than outside and when a car is closed, the temperature starts rising within five minutes.

Normal body temperature ranges from 36C to 37.5C, but when a child has heat exhaustion this can rise to 40C.

If a child has a temperature of 40C to 42C, they could be suffering from heat stroke, the medic said.

"Schoolchildren need to drink more fluids during summer. It would be better if they limit their time outdoors and go out only before 11am and after 5pm," said Dr Ajesh.

The doctor suggested children should sip water after engaging in any physical activity.

If a child is suffering from heat exhaustion, they will look unwell or irritable and may be sleepy or thirsty.

They may even refuse drinking water and their mouth and eyes will be dry, Dr Ajesh said.

If parents notice any of these signs, they should take the child to a cool area and give them a bath. If the child is able to drink or eat, the child should be given fluids.

If a child has heat stroke, the body temperature will be very high and the child may have vomiting or seem confused.

“Call an ambulance and if possible, give the child some cool fluid to bring down the temperature," said Dr Ajesh.