Infants and young children die from being left in hot cars each year. Learn what you can do to protect your child and the lives of children around you.
Vehicular heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. Since 1990, more than 750 children have died after being left in a hot car — an average of 30 each year. As of July 20 of this year, 19 children in the U.S. have died of vehicular heatstroke.
Children Are More Susceptible to Heat Stroke
Children are nearly five times more susceptible to heat. With still-growing bodies, infants and children lack the ability cool their core temperature as efficiently as adults. To compensate, their breathing rate quickens. They begin perspiring profusely, and their heart rate increases exponentially.
Their temperature can rise to 106 degrees in just 15 minutes, and they quickly succumb to hyperthermia or heatstroke — the child experiences kidney, respiratory and organ failures and seizures, and ultimately, cardiac arrest.
The Mechanics of Cars and Heat
Cars heat up — fast. Nearly 80 percent of the increase in temperature inside a vehicle occurs during the first 30 minutes. Within that time frame, the temperature can rise to more than 34 degrees greater than outside temperatures. Even if it’s not a particularly hot day, a car in 60-degree weather can heat up to more than 110 degrees.
Whether you think the temperature is safe or not, it’s never a good idea to leave your child in a car alone for any length of time. Cracking a window is insignificant.
Look Before You Lock
To avoid heatstroke, experts remind parents and caretakers to ACT:
- A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car no matter what the temperature — not even for a minute. Furthermore, keep your car locked, even at home, so kids don’t get in on their own.
- C: Create reminders. Place something in the back of your car you will need at your final destination — a purse, cell phone or brief case. Make it a habit. Keep a toy or stuffed animal in your child’s seat when it’s empty. When your child is in the car, move the toy to the front seat as a visual reminder.
- T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call, and they are trained to respond in these situations.
Some final tips:
- Always look before you lock your car: Make it a habit to check the back seats before you lock up and walk away.
- If your daily routine has been altered — someone else is driving your child to day care, for example — always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.