Heat Stroke and Hot Cars

Children who are left unattended in vehicles while a parent or caregiver runs a quick errand—or when a child becomes trapped in a vehicle can result in serious injuries or death. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) wants you to be aware of how dangerous leaving unattended children in hot cars can be.  

According to the National Safety Council average, nearly 40 children die each year as a result of being left in hot vehicles, with the majority being less than one-year-old.  Small children are especially at risk for heatstroke when left alone in a car because their bodies heat up almost five times faster than adults. Children develop heatstroke at when their internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees, and death can occur at 107 degrees.

Although heatstroke most commonly occurs during warmer months, children have been injured or died from heatstroke in vehicles when the air temperature is as low as 60 degrees. When the outside temperature is 60 degrees a car’s inside temperature can reach 110 degrees. In just 10 minutes in direct sunlight, a vehicle’s inside temperature can rise 20 degrees. Cracking the window of the car does not help to reduce the dangers of heatstroke.

The following are some common symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Dry, hot skin
  • Confusion/strange behavior
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartrate
  • Nausea and vomiting

The laws detailing what you can do if you spot a person in a hot car vary by state, however, several states have changed to allow for to gain access to cars so long as the person immediately calls 911, uses force only necessary to gain access, and remains with the vehicle.  

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