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.

Andy Dunn, MD

Andy Dunn M.D.

Dr. Dunn is board certified in family medicine and is medical director of Mesa Primary Care and Sage Primary Care. He grew up in Denver and moved to Casper to complete his residency at University of Wyoming Family Practice. He was a Wyoming Medical Center hospitalist for several years. 

Email Article

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