Summertime Heat and Car Safety

Now that summer is in full swing, long, hot, and humid days are to be expected. It is very important to remember warm-weather safety, especially when it comes to leaving children and pets in vehicles.  Remembering and practicing heat safety can save lives.  Sometimes people leave their children in cars, even if it is just for a few minutes, and they do not realize the potentially dangerous consequences. When the human body gets too hot, it will enter a state called hyperthermia, which can lead to many complications, including death.  In the last ten years, there have been 378 deaths as a result of children being left in cars. 
To better understand the danger of these situations, it is important to define what hyperthermia is and what the signs are. Hyperthermia is an illness that occurs when the human body overheats. According to, when the body reaches a temperature of 106oF and is unable to cool down, it will enter this state of hyperthermia. It only takes ten to fifteen minutes of exposure to extreme temperatures for hyperthermia to set in. 
According to, when a person is suffering from heat stroke, close attention should be paid to the following symptoms: 
·         an extremely high body temperature above 104°F
·         red, hot, and moist or dry skin
·         no sweating
·         rapid, strong pulse
·         dizziness
·         throbbing headaches
·         nausea
·         confusion
·         seizures
·         unconsciousness 
Heat stroke is something that should be taken seriously. If you are around someone who is suffering from one or more of these symptoms, make sure you take the person into a cooler area and do whatever you can to cool the person down with what you have available. This can vary from applying an ice pack to taking a cold shower. Call 911 and keep cooling the person down until the body temperature drops to 102oF or 101oF.
The temperature inside vehicles rises the fastest within the first fifteen to thirty minutes. A study conducted by the Animal Protection Institute showed that days that are moderately warm can be just as dangerous as excessively hot days. In the study, when the temperature outside the vehicle reached 82oF, the temperature inside was measured at an alarming 109oF. One might ask, “What if I keep the windows cracked? Will this make my vehicle safer?” The study was performed numerous times with windows in various positions. Even with all four windows cracked, life threatening temperatures were still reached inside the vehicle. Despite the open windows, when the temperature outside the vehicle soared to 90oF, the temperature inside climbed to 108oF. This proves that even with all four windows cracked, the inside of a parked car is no place for children, adults, or pets.
It is dangerous to be left in a vehicle when it is hot outside, even for a few minutes, because the vehicle heats up so quickly. San Francisco State University studies measured 16 different starting temperatures ranging from 72oF to 96oF. In the study, the temperature was measured every 5 minutes over the course of one hour. Regardless of the starting temperature, the study showed the largest increase in temperature occurred within the first 15 minutes. The average increase in temperature during the first 15 minutes was 29oF. The average increase in temperature after 30 minutes was 34oF, and for an hour the average increase was 43oF.  The study showed that on a sunny day with a starting temperature of only 72oF, the temperature inside the vehicle still reached triple digits after only fifteen minutes. On a 90 degree day, the temperature in an enclosed vehicle can exceed 130 oF.
In other studies conducted by San Francisco State University, showed the average number of children’s deaths caused by vehicle related hyperthermia is 38 a year over the last 10 years. Over half of those deaths occurred when the guardian forgot about the child. This is why awareness of the danger is so important.

When it comes to the “dog days” of summer, enjoy the warm weather as much as possible, but do it the safe way. Children are very vulnerable to hyperthermia and are at major risk when left in a car. It only takes 15 minutes for parked vehicles to warm up to deadly conditions. Remembering to take children with you when leaving the vehicle will greatly reduce the risk of exposing them to extreme heat. Practicing safe hot-weather procedures will make the summer a lot more enjoyable for not only children, but also the whole family.



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