Every summer, heartbreaking and preventable deaths happen when children are left alone in hot cars. Since 1998, at least 606 children – or one child every 10 days on average– have died from heatstroke when left unattended in a vehicle or after gaining access to an unattended vehicle. Nearly 90% were children age three and under. In 2013, 44 children died, one of the worst years on record.
Did You Know?
Children overheat up to five times faster than adults.
In 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees.
Even at an outside temperature of 60 degrees, your car’s inside temperature can reach 110 degrees.
A child dies when their body temperature reaches 107 degrees.
It’s never OK to leave a child alone in a car, even if the car is on. “Many people are shocked to learn that the temperature inside of a car can rise up to 20 degrees in 10 minutes and cracking a window doesn’t help,” said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide.
Warning signs of heatstroke:
Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
Strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
Confusion or strange behavior
Kids are more susceptible and at higher risk for heat-related illness and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as adults. As a result, just a few minutes can be extremely dangerous—even fatal—for a small child.
Know What Can Go Wrong
On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car]can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes.
Heatstroke occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Young children are particularly at risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. And when a child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.
The Role of a Bystander—Get Involved
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately, advises the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible,” states the NHTSA’s web site.
Tips for Parents
Safe Kids is working to educate parents and caregivers through its heatstroke awareness campaign, “Never Leave Your Child Alone In a Car.” Parents, caregivers and bystanders are encouraged to help reduce the number of heatstroke deaths by remembering to ACT.
A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
C: Create reminders by putting something on the backseat of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.