Warm-weather plans may look different this year with safety guidelines still in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. However, like every summer, a dangerous and potentially fatal situation still threatens our children: being left in hot cars. Besides automobile crashes, heatstroke is the number-one vehicle-related killer of children in the U.S.
How to Protect Kids from Heatstroke in a Hot Car
In 2019, there were 52 preventable deaths of children in vehicles, and that number remains about the same year to year. To prevent accidentally putting your child at risk of heatstroke in a motor vehicle, remember these three tips:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended, even if it doesn’t seem that hot outside. In moderate temperatures, the inside of a car can heat up to above 110 degrees in just a few minutes. Rolling down a window is little help in keeping a vehicle cool.
- Look in the back seat every time you exit the car. More than half of the children who have died due to vehicular heatstroke were forgotten in the vehicle by a caregiver.
- Always lock your car and put the keys out of reach of children. A quarter of vehicular heatstroke-related deaths happened when a child was playing in an unattended vehicle.
A child’s body temperature can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, which is why a hot car is an even bigger threat to kids. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches around 104 degrees. A body temperature of 107 degrees can be deadly.
Warning signs of heatstroke include:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin and no sweating
- A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
- Confusion or strange behavior
If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends spraying the child with cool water or with a garden hose immediately. Never give them an ice bath. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
If you are a bystander and see a child in a hot vehicle, take action immediately. Learn how on the NHTSA child safety page here. Just as in any situation, if you see a child in distress, help however you can. Many states have Good Samaritan laws that protect people who help someone in an emergency.
While our summer routines look a little different this year, increasing temperatures are still deadly to an unattended child inside a vehicle. For more tips and to help raise awareness about the dangers of heatstroke, visit nhtsa.gov/heatstroke.