|Print This Page Email this page to a Friend|
First day of summer may mean greater possibility of children being left in hot cars Pediatric critical care physician Elizabeth Mack, MD, director of quality at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, has seen the tragic results of children being inadvertently left in hot cars. With record-setting high temperatures across much of the nation, Dr. Mack reminds people that children have died from heat stroke in a vehicle with outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees Fahrenheit (F). “A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. The temperature inside a vehicle can reach life-threatening temperatures rapidly,” says Dr. Mack.
The number of heat stroke deaths of children being left unattended in vehicles in the United States has been steadily trending upward. Since recordkeeping began in 1998, Safe Kids USA reports that there have been more than 520 of these avoidable tragedies.
Hyperthermia (heat-stroke) is the leading cause of non-crash vehicle deaths for children under the age of fourteen. Heat stroke can occur when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their body’s temperature regulating system is overwhelmed.
In just 10 minutes, a car’s interior temperature can rise by 19 degrees. Between one and two hours, it can rise 45–50 degrees. “Leaving the windows cracked does not make a significant difference, so it is not an acceptable compromise,” says Dr. Mack.
“People would be surprised to learn that some of the people who accidentally leave their children in the car are not the inattentive parents one might expect,” says Dr. Mack. “Everyone thinks it couldn’t happen to them, but a parent who is distracted might inadvertently leave a child in the car,” she says. “A caregiver who is not the person usually responsible for the child can forget that there is a child in the car, especially if the child is quiet or sleeping.”
Symptoms of hyperthermia include:
A core body temperature of 107 degrees F can be lethal, as cells may be damaged and internal organs shut down. Cases of death from hyperthermia in vehicles have happened to children from newborn to age 14. More than half of these deaths have occurred in children under the age of two.
Tips from Safe Kids USA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration include:
Take steps to remember not to leave a child in a vehicle, such as:
About Children’s Hospital