2019 Heatstroke PreventionMay 27 - August 11, 2019 (National Heatstroke Prevention Day - July 31)
Hot Cars Kill Kids
In the span of 10 minutes, a car can heat up by 20 degrees, enough to kill a child left alone in the vehicle. The U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and other safety advocates and academic institutions have recognized the safety threat heatstroke poses for children left unattended in hot cars. Here are the key facts:
Heatstroke is the leading cause of not-in-traffic non-crash related fatalities for children 14 and younger.
- As of July 2, 2019, 17 children have died due to vehicular heatstroke, and that number continues to rise.
- From 1998-2018, 795 children died due to vehicular heatstroke. Of the 795 deaths:
- 54 percent (429 children) were forgotten by a caregiver;
- 26 percent (209 children) were playing in an unattended vehicle;
- 19 percent (150 children) were intentionally left in vehicle by an adult; and
- 1 percent (10 children) died under unknown circumstances.
- In 2018, 52 children died in vehicular heatstroke incidents.
- Children are at a higher risk than adults of dying from heatstroke in a hot vehicle, especially when they are too young to alert others for help.
- A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s.
High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.
- Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the thermoregulatory system is overwhelmed. A core temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal.
- In 10 minutes a car can heat up by 20 degrees. Rolling down a window does little to keep a vehicle cool.
- Heatstroke fatalities have occurred even in vehicles parked in shaded areas and when the outside air temperatures were 80 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
- Summertime is the peak season for these tragic incidents, but heatstroke can occur in outdoor temperatures as low as 57 degrees. The warning signs of heatstroke vary, but may include:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
- No sweating
- A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
- A throbbing headache
- Being grouchy or acting strangely
It can happen to anyone.
- In 54 percent of cases, the child was forgotten by the caregiver.
- In 26 percent of cases, children got into the vehicles on their own.
- The children most at-risk are those under 1 year, making up 32 percent of heatstroke deaths.
Hot Cars Kill Children
Heatstroke Prevention Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Leaving a child alone in a vehicle can lead to tragedy. These deaths, while accidental, are always preventable. Here are some helpful tips to make sure it doesn’t happen to your family.
Remember these things:
- NEVER leave a child alone in a parked car, even with the windows rolled down or the air conditioning on. A child’s body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s. A core body temperature of 107 degrees is lethal.
- MAKE IT A HABIT look in both the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away EVERY time you exit the car.
- Heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.
- NEVER let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them a vehicle is not a play area.
- ALWAYS lock your vehicle doors and trunk, and keep the keys out of a child’s reach. If a child is missing, quickly check all vehicles, including the trunk.
Is dropping off a child not part of your normal routine? Come up with some ways to remind yourself that the child is in the car.
- Place a briefcase, purse, or cell phone next to the child’s car seat so that you’ll always check the back seat before leaving the car.
- Call your spouse or another caregiver to confirm you’ve dropped your child off.
- Have your child care provider call you if your child doesn’t arrive.
- Write a note and place it on the dashboard of your car, or set a reminder on your cell phone or calendar.
If you see a child alone in a vehicle:
- Always make sure the child is okay and responsive. If not, call 911 immediately.
- If the child appears to be okay, attempt to locate the parents or have the facility’s security or management page the car owner over the PA system.
- If the child is not responsive and appears to be in distress, attempt to get into the car to assist the child—even if that means breaking a window—many states have “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people from lawsuits for getting involved to help a person in an emergency.
Remember: kids and hot cars are a deadly combination. Don’t take the chance. Look Before You Lock.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - nhtsa.gov/heatstroke
- San Jose State University, Department of Meteorology & Climate Science – noheatstroke.org
- Safe Kids Worldwide - safekids.org
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – chop.edu