Don't leave your child in a hot car: Understanding the risks & consequences

July 30, 2014 Jayne Blackburn, MSN, RN, CCRN

In the span of this hot weather streak, we all need a quick refresher and reminder about how quickly children can suffer from heatstroke if left in a hot car.  Every summer, there are multiple occasions where children are left in hot cars for a myriad of “excuses” by adults.  In 2014 alone there have been 18 deaths of children related to heatstroke obtained by being left alone in a hot car. 

Here are some things you must know:

  1.  No matter how brief – there are no exceptions!  Some adults may think that taking the child in/out of their car seat is cumbersome and they are correct, even if it for what they believe is a “quick stop”.  But, remember – the stakes are too high!  The car temperatures can get very hot in a very short period of time.  There is no safe amount of time to leave children alone in a car. (Did you know? In 10 minutes a car can heat up 20+ degrees Fahrenheit.  Even if it is only 60 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to approximately 110 degrees. “Cracking” the windows does very little to keep the car cool.)

  2. A few minutes can be fatal.  Many adults leave children in the car inadvertently due to a lack of understanding about how quickly children become sick from the heat.  Even just a few minutes in the heat is dangerous and can be fatal for a small child. (A child’s body temperature increases 5 times as fast as an adult’s, and a child dies when his temperature reaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit.)

  3. If you see a child of any size alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately!  If the child is in distress due to the heat get them out of the situation as quickly as possible.  A child’s life depends on you.

Become vigilant about looking in the vehicle before locking the car door and walking away.  A few moments may just save a child’s life.

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