Kathryn A. Stephenson, MD
Associate Medical Director, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital
Summer is here and the heat is on! It’s easy to underestimate the risk of overheating and heatstroke when it comes to kids. Young children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. As busy as we are, sometimes it can be tempting to leave a sleeping child in a car while we run in to handle a chore—but that is extremely risky behavior. The temperature inside a parked car can become many times hotter than the temperature outside. In fact, the temperature inside a car that is parked in the sun can climb to 145 to 150 degrees in just 40 minutes! Rolling down the windows does not help or reduce the risk. Heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. If that wasn’t frightening enough, on average, every eight days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.
Tips to prevent overheating
- Don’t ever leave a child alone in a car—not even for a minute. Make it routine to check the back seats of your car when you are getting out. Also, lock the doors of unattended vehicles so kids can’t get inside to play.
- Make sure your child has access to cool, air-conditioned places on hot days. If your home does not have air conditioning, seek a public place, such as a library, to cool down.
- If your child is feeling hot, give him or her a cool bath.
- Be sure your child is frequently hydrated. Always have water available, especially if you are playing outside.
- If playing outside, take frequent breaks so your child can cool down.
The signs of overheating
- Extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Extreme tiredness
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Nausea or vomiting
- Intense thirst
- Faster-than-normal breathing
- Muscle aches and spasms
One thing we can always count on in South Carolina is a hot summer, so be mindful of your child’s sensitivity to the heat, know the signs of overheating, and do everything you can to make sure you and your family have a safe and fun-filled season.