As we approach rising summer temperatures, the dangers for kids left in hot vehicles increases.
A child dies from heatstroke about once every 10 days from being left alone in a hot vehicle. In fact, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle fatality for kids 14 and younger. Children climb into unlocked cars to play, or are left along in the car. These tragedies are 100% preventable.
Vehicles heat up quickly – even with a window rolled down two inches, if the outside temperature is in the low 80s° F, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes.
Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. Symptoms of heatstroke include
- Hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid heart beat
It is lethal when the body’s core temperature reaches 107 degrees F – cells become damaged and internal organs shut down.
Children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness. Children’s bodies absorb more heat on a hot day than an adult and their temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s. Also, children are less able to lower their body heat by sweating. When a body cannot sweat enough, the body temperature rises rapidly.
- Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle. Not even for a minute!
- If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle call 911.
- Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies. Look before you lock!
- Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices. Teach your children that vehicles are not play areas. In more than 29% of child related heatstroke cases, kids got into vehicles on their own.
- If a child is missing, always check the pool first, and then the car, including the trunk.
- Place your purse or briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have your child in the car.
Sources: NHTSA and Department of Geo Sciences at San Francisco State University