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Kids Can Suffer Heat Stroke in a Hot Car in 10 Minutes. Here’s What to Know.

All of us know what it’s like to experience a hot car. The leather exterior of the steering can sometimes be too hot to touch and the stifling hot air makes it difficult to breathe. After just a few minutes, your heart rate begins to rise as your body tries to cool itself down.

Most of us wouldn’t sit in a hot car for more than a few minutes before turning the air conditioning on. But what if you were stuck in your car on a 90-degree day and you weren’t able to turn on the air conditioning? What if you were a child strapped into a car seat? Helpless.

baby's crying faceNationwide approximately 37 children die by overheating in cars every year. North Carolina ranks number 6 in the country since 1991 for hot car deaths, according to data from kidsandcars.org, an organization that advocates for stronger car safety measures for children.

I am a mom of a young child, and these statistics break my heart. Children cannot defend themselves against high temperatures like adults – their body temperature climbs three to five times faster. Even cool days can pose a threat. Every 10-20 minutes, the internal temperature of a car can rise 20 degrees.

Children have died in cars when the outside temperature was as low as 60 degrees.

Cracking the Windows Doesn’t Help

Some people believe that opening the windows will keep their child from overheating, but Kidsandcars.org asserts that lowering the windows does not help.

It is extremely important to make sure you always take your child out of the car with you, no matter how quick your errand may be.

As a busy single working mom, I certainly understand how some parents might think, “I’ll just run in and run out of the drugstore and it will only take a few minutes.” We’re busy and in a rush, and taking a child out of a car seat and putting him back in again can take time. Especially if the child is unwilling or sleeping.

Call 911 if a Child is Unattended in a Car

If you see a child left unattended in a car, take action right away by calling 911. If you notice signs of heat stroke, let the 911 operator know you plan to break the window to help the child cool down.

Signs of Heat Stroke

If you notice any of these signs, prompt action is in order.

  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Seizure
  • Hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Hallucinations

How to Rescue a Child From a Hot Car

Check out this video from the Today Show that shows exactly how to rescue a child (or a pet for that matter) out of a hot car. It’s good info to know.

Half of Child Deaths in Overheated Cars Occur Because Someone Forgot

Most child deaths occur when parents unintentionally leave their infant in the car. Many parents are quick to assume that they would never “forget” their child in the backseat. But parents do forget. Parents of every background have forgotten their child in their car – it has happened to social workers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, soldiers.

52% of heatstroke deaths in cars occur because someone forgot a child was in the car.

As a parent, you’re probably used to a fast-paced and strict schedule. Some days, it may feel like you’re on autopilot – you’re so used to a particular routine that you don’t even consciously think about it. Any sudden new tasks can be difficult to remember to incorporate into your day. For instance, if you’re used to waking up and driving straight to work every morning, it may be easy to forget to drop off your child at daycare. These tragedies often happen during busy times – especially around holidays or schedule changes when parents are stressed and fatigued and forget more easily.

4 Ways to Remember Your Child Is in the Car

While it’s difficult to prevent stress and fatigue, there are several ways to help remember your child in the backseat:

  1. Put something you need (like your purse, employee ID, or cell phone) in the backseat next to your child, so that you’ll have to open the back door in order to grab it.
  2. Use drive thru services when available.
  3. Always keep your vehicles locked – even when they are sitting in your garage – so that your child can’t sneak inside and accidentally lock themselves in.
  4. A free app called Kars4Kids Safety is designed to act as an alert system for parents. A customizable alarm rings on your phone when you exit the car to remind you that your child is still inside!

Let’s spread awareness along with these helpful tips in order to try to ensure our children’s safety.

P.S. Your furry friends are at risk, too. Leaving your pet in a hot car can be extremely dangerous and have deadly consequences – animals may suffer heat stroke in as little as 15 minutes. Dogs are only able to cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paw pads, making them especially vulnerable in hot weather. If you’re running errands, it may be best to leave your pets at home.