Father Using Hot Shower as Humidifier for Sick Baby Faces Tragic Ending

September 20, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018    

A Brooklyn family woke up to a nightmare when a father’s attempt to alleviate his son’s cough went horribly wrong.

The 1-year-old, Mordechai Halpern, woke up around 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 14 with a bad cough. The father gave the baby a bottle of water with lemon juice and sugar, but Mordechai continued to cough.

Approximate location of Mordechai Halpern’s home in Kensington, Brooklyn. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

The father then strapped the baby in a stroller, covered him with a blanket, and put the stroller by the toilet in the bathroom. He turned on hot water in the shower and closed the shower curtain, trying to let the shower work as a humidifier.

The father then went back to sleep, setting his alarm for 5 a.m. The alarm went off and the boy’s 22-year-old mother went to check on her son. She found him unconscious.

An ambulance was called, and Mordechai was rushed to Maimonides Medical Center. However, the child was pronounced dead at 5:49 a.m.

Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. (Screenshot via Google Street View)

At the time of death, the baby had temperature of 108 degrees, sources told The New York Daily News.

Police don’t believe the father intended to hurt the child.

While it may seem apparent where Mordechai’s father went wrong, he may had just followed incorrect advice.

For example, if one searches “how to care for child with bronchitis” on Google, the search engine prominently features an article on Parenting and Child Health, a website run by the Government of South Australia.

Under the headline “What you can do” the article states: “Steam (eg from the bathroom shower or a humidifier) can help the child feel more comfortable, but does not shorten the illness. Be aware of the risk of burns and scalds.”

The article doesn’t mention anything about the risk of overheating the child by exposure to steam from a hot shower.

A request for a comment to the website wasn’t immediately answered. The article includes a disclaimer that the “information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care.”

There is no indication Mordechai’s father used this particular website for advice.

Articles about this topic on other websites mention using a cool-mist humidifier to ease breathing for a child with bronchitis.

The risk of overheating children has received significant attention in connection with dozens of child deaths every year due to being left in cars on sunny days.

Children can’t regulate heat as well as adults can, according to this study done by the NCBI. When exposed to extreme heat, they can quickly faint and as their blood pressure drops lower and lower, it halts the flow of oxygen to the brain. Death becomes imminent.