Cold Weather Consequences

It’s something some parents think is harmless, running into a store like Walmart and leaving the kids in the car but doing so could land you behind bars.

These two women were arrested for doing that this week in bitter cold conditions.

"When you leave them by themselves unattended in a motor vehicle there are many things that can happen that can put the child's life at risk even in a few minutes time," explained Winnebago County States Attorney Joe Bruscato.

Bruscato explains that by definition, leaving any child under the age of six alone is considered endangering the life of a child.

The first offense is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to a year in jail and a 2,500 hundred dollar fine. The second offense is a felony and offenders could spend time in a state penitentiary with up to a 10,000 dollar fine. Weather factors into the charges.

"We’re going to take into account extreme weather as an example whether it's very cold or very warm out anything that's going to put the child's safety at risk," said Bruscato.

Also risky is putting your child in any situation where their body temperature can drop by a few degrees.

"Usually body temperature is more like 98 to 99 degrees normally so a three point drop can already create the first phase of hypothermia, which is shivering so usually a child would be conscious and shivering," said Swedish American Hospital Family Medicine Doctor Eric Trautmann.

After that mental status changes and vital signs begin to drop. Then the child will stop breathing.

"Particularly small children because they have more surface area, their heads are a little bit bigger in proportion to their bodies and they can lose a tremendous amount of heat through that surface," said Dr. Trautmann.

He advises keeping kids inside and bundled up to protect the skin from frostbite and body temperature from dropping.

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