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Heatstroke in Cars

Every summer, children are exposed to the risk of sustaining critical injuries or even being killed as a result of heatstroke in cars. These life changing injuries can cause catastrophic injuries and medical conditions even when a parent has stepped away for just a couple of minutes. This is because vehicles heat up extremely quickly in the sun. This heat can be fatal for young children.

Children face much higher risks of suffering injuries from heatstroke in cars or dying from heatstroke in a vehicle because their bodies heat up as much as 5 times faster than adults, according to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Children who are too young to open car doors or to communicate are at very high risk of heatstroke in a vehicle and therefore, it is never safe for a parent to leave a child or multiple children alone in a vehicle. The magnitude of the problem is quite serious across the United States but many people do not realize the serious consequences that can apply if...

Between1998 and 2015, more than 660 children died as a result of heatstroke. Many parents are not aware of the fact that it only takes ten minutes for a car to increase at least 20 degrees in temperature. However, heatstroke can occur at a broad range of different temperatures because of the fact that vehicles heat up quickly. Misunderstanding how the sun can turn these cars into essentially an oven could lead to critical injuries that cannot be reversed or even fatalities.

How to Prevent Heatstroke in Children

Heatstroke has occurred in vehicles in outside temperatures as low as 57 degrees. It is never a good idea to leave a child alone in a vehicle unattended even with the windows cracked for short period of time. Checking the backseat each time you leave the vehicle can help to prevent serious injuries. Putting a purse or smartphone in the back of the vehicle is a great reminder system to always take children outside.

All vehicle doors and trunks should remain locked and keys should be kept out of the reach of children in order to decrease the chances that they will get inside the vehicle on their own. If you see a child alone in the vehicle, contacting 911 is the next step you should follow. Sometimes babies can be so quiet and peaceful in the backseat that it can be tempting to leave the child there so that they don't wake up quickly or that you can forget that they are there.

However, leaving a child alone in a car for any amount of time and at any warm temperature can lead to death or injury from heatstroke. Every ten days a child dies as a result of heatstroke in a vehicle. In many of these cases, the caregiver simply forgot that the child was in the car. Heatstroke is defined as situations in which an individual's temperature goes beyond 104 F and their thermal regulatory mechanism of the body is overwhelmed. This often happens much more quickly for children than it would for adults.

How to Identify Heatstroke in Children

Some of the symptoms indicating that a child is suffering from heatstroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Hot dry and flushed skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sluggishness
  • Seizure
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heartbeat

When the core body temperature of the child reaches 107 F or higher, internal organs begin to shut down and cells are severely damaged. These events can escalate quickly and can lead to fatal injuries. While an adult's regulatory mechanism is relatively efficient and an adult is able to exit the vehicle on their own, a child may not be able to communicate this or maybe unable to make the locking mechanism within the vehicle to function. This presents a range of serious issues that can lead to heatstroke injuries or even death.

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