Heatstroke’s Effects on Children Left in Cars: How To Avoid a Potentially Lethal Situation for Your Child

Arthur C. Kosieradzki - SiebenCarey "Know Your Rights" AttorneyMay 05, 2015

With May upon us, the mild spring climate is setting in around the country. However, with temperatures as low as 57 degrees, heatstroke can affect a child locked in your car because your car can still overheat. 717 children have died in overheated cars since 1990:

 
  • That’s one in every 10 days! And it can happen to anyone. Multitasking parents who need to run into the store for “just a sec” should take caution. Some important facts to keep in mind:
  • 52 percent of heatstroke deaths in cars happen because a caregiver forgot that a child was in the car. 30 percent involve children who got into a car on their own. 17 percent occur because a child is intentionally left in a car.
  • It only takes 10 minutes of being parked in the sun for a car to heat up 20 degrees. When it’s in the 60’s outside, your car can heat up to above 110 degrees.
  • A child dies when their body temperature reaches 107. And let’s bear in mind that children’s body temperatures rise five times faster than an average adult’s.
  • Cracking a window does very little to actually keep your car cool. This one should be a no-brainer.


As a parent, three steps to avoid a potentially deadly situation include:

  • Take your child with you when you leave the car - no matter the temperature outside, and no matter how long you anticipate being out of the car.
  • Make sure your car is locked when it’s unattended - children climbing into cars on their own are one of the big reasons our country has seen so many heatstroke related child fatalities.
  • Create reminders that your child is with you in the car - put a stuffed animal in the front seat or something you’ll need, like a briefcase or a purse, next to the child in the backseat.


As a bystander, don’t be afraid to act! States have “Good Samaritan” laws to protect people from lawsuits while trying to help someone in an emergency. If you see a child locked in a car for more than five minutes, follow these helpful steps:

  • Make sure the child is OK. If they are non-responsive, call 911 immediately.
  • If the child appears to be OK, locate the parent(s). Have security/management at the facility page the owner of the car over the PA system.
  • If you have someone with you, one of you should wait by the car while the other attempts to find the parent(s).
  • If the child is non-responsive, or appears to be in great distress from the heat, get the child out of the car - even if it means breaking a window (that is as far away as possible from the child, to avoid inflicting further danger on them).
  • Once the child is out of the car, cool them down - bring them to the shade and spray water on them.

 

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