Summer Safety Series | Car infernos: Heat… - Wyoming Medical Center

Summer Safety Series | Car infernos: Heat stroke is No. 1 killer of children in non-crash car deaths

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 20, 2016

Keep a teddy bear in your child's car seat and move it to the front seat whenever your child is in the car. The visual reminder that you have precious cargo in the backseat could prevent a tragedy.

Did you know that temperatures inside vehicles can rise 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes, even with windows cracked open? The bodies of young children heat up three to five times faster than adults, making them particularly susceptible to heat stroke – the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children.

Safe Kids' Gary Karton hit the streets of Washington, D.C., to get people talking about an important issue that’s been making headlines lately: heatstroke. Video by Safe Kids Worldwide. www.safekids.org

“Car interiors are like saunas on a hot day. The air gets trapped, sun hits the car and it retains all that UV energy. It’s like a big metal box, heated from the outside,” said Andy Dunn, M.D., a family practice physician at Mesa Primary Care.

Never leave children or pets inside a vehicle unattended – no matter how quick of an errand you think you have. Parents and caregivers, remember to ACT to cut the number of deaths and injury to children left in vehicles.

  • A: Avoid injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. On an 80-degree day, a car’s interior can reach 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes. Cracking windows has little effect. Keep your car locked to ensure children don’t climb in on their own and teach children not to play in parked cars.
  • C: Create reminders by keeping a teddy bear or other soft object in the child safety seat when it is not in use. Before strapping a child into the seat, move the Teddy bear to the front passenger seat and strap it in as a reminder that you are transporting precious cargo in the back. Form the habit of leaving your phone, wallet or purse in the back seat so that you must turn around to retrieve it after reaching your destination. Create a reminder calendar on your phone or computer to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare. Ask your daycare provider to call within a few minutes if your child is late.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in the car, call 911. Emergency responders are trained to respond to these situations.

The elderly are also at risk if trapped in hot cars. Dunn treated a man in his 80s who wasn’t in a car for very long, but who suffered heat stroke. The man arrived to the hospital too late. “It was devastating, horrible, shocking.”

More information is available at www.safekids.org/heatstroke.

Professional headshot of

Andy Dunn M.D.

Dr. Andy Dunn is board certified in family medicine, and is medical director of Mesa Primary Care and Sage Primary Care.

After working as a Wyoming Medical Center hospitalist for several years, Dr. Dunn transitioned to family practice to form deeper, more long-term relationships with his patients.

Dr. Dunn grew up in Denver and became interested in medicine after completing a semester of EMT training as part of a volunteer fire department EMS team. He relished the chance to really help people in need.

“This sounds corny, but I love the Norman Rockwell approach to medicine. There is a painting where the doctor is listening to a young child’s doll with his stethoscope, and that has always kind of stuck with me,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be in that kind of setting, to help someone when they need it.”

As a medical student, he completed a four-week rotation at Wyoming Medical Center and fell in love with the hospital and the community. He completed his residency in Casper and stayed here as a WMC hospitalist. He is excited to help establish primary care practices focused on preventative medicine for the whole community.

“I love treating families,” he said. “I love kids. I love grandparents and everyone in between. To treat a family is a huge honor and a huge blessing.”

Dr. Dunn is married and has two children.