Emergency Care For You

Children in Hot Cars Result in Fatal Consequences

Emergency physicians are warning the public about the overwhelming dangers associated with leaving anyone, especially children in hot, unventilated vehicles during the summer.  Children throughout the country die each year as a direct result of being left alone in a hot vehicle.

“Putting it bluntly, leaving your child in a hot car is like leaving your child in a lit oven,” said Dr. Nick Jouriles. “The most important thing to know is that it does not have to be brutally hot outside for it to be brutally hot inside the car.  Be especially careful if you are sleep deprived or experience changes in your schedule or your child is in the back seat, making it more difficult for you to see.”

A vehicle’s window will act like a greenhouse, trapping sunlight and heat inside with no ventilation.  A car parked in direct sunlight can reach up to 131 degrees inside while the outside temperature is a tolerable 80 degrees.  Also, it’s very important to note that this isn’t a gradual, but rather a rapid increase in temperature.  In warm weather, a vehicle can reach dangerous, life-threatening conditions in only about 10 minutes.

A child’s body temperature can go as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit in that time and it often is fatal.  Specifically, these extreme conditions can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, as well as heat stroke, dehydration, and seizures among other things.

Prevention Tips:

  • Never leave children unattended in a vehicle.
  • Never let your children play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle before you get out.
  • If your infant or young child travels in a rear-facing car seat or the back seat, keep a reminder for you in the front seat, for example, a stuffed animal.
  • Always lock the doors and keep any keys out of reach from children.
  • If you see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call the police.  If they appear in distress, don’t hesitate, get them out as quickly as possible, cool the child rapidly and call 911or your local emergency number.

Symptoms of heat stroke include a strong rapid pulse, a throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and disorientation.