Children in Hot Cars? Not Cool!

From Issue: 
July 2016

It’s a story that makes headlines every summer, for all the wrong reasons: 

A parent leaves their child in a car while they, for example, run into the corner store. Or go pay for gas. Or go run errands that will “only take a minute.”

Some time later – often as little as a few minutes – the parent comes back to find the child severely dehydrated, with a body temperature well above normal, or in some cases dead from heat shock.

During the summer months especially, the effect that the beaming sun can have on a closed car is drastically underrated. It isn’t a slow, steady climb in temperature, like it is with your living room being adjusted by thermostat. It’s exponential, meaning that a car being exposed to the sun on a 35° C day can shoot up to 50° C in a span of approximately 20 minutes.

Comparatively, heat stroke happens at 40.5° C. The risk is amplified in younger children, whose autonomic nervous system may not be fully developed. When the body’s internal core hits this temperature, the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature because sweat reserves are used up. At that point, the body continues to overheat, and can result in organ damage, failure, and death.

It’s very easy to not realize the imminent danger that leaving your child in a hot car can cause. 

The reality of the situation is that even conventionally held knowledge, like leaving the window open a crack, is not enough to keep your child comfortable. Even a car parked in the shade can heat up quickly due to the indirect sunlight. 

Take the children with you if you have to get out of the vehicle, even if it’s just for a moment. The same holds true for most animals as well, especially dogs. 

Sometimes, incidents involving children and hot cars are not necessarily linked with parental absent-mindedness – children sometimes crawl into unlocked cars, leaving parents none the wiser that they are transporting their child with them. Parents, lock your car and trunk at all times when it is left unattended or is in a garage or driveway.