Leaving Your Children and Your Pets Alone in Hot Cars Can Turn Deadly in Just a Few Minutes
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Leaving Your Children and Your Pets Alone in Hot Cars Can Turn Deadly in Just a Few Minutes

The cabin temperature of your car can increase by 20 degrees or more in just 10 minutes, even on a cloudy or overcast day with the windows cracked

June 16, 2021

You need to make a quick stop at a local shop. You will only be gone for a minute. You crack the windows and lock the car, leaving your sleeping infant cozy in the car seat. The problem is that it's never just a minute. It's always longer than you think. And it takes less than ten minutes for your car with the cracked windows to heat up to dangerous temperatures, posing serious risks to your child.

It only takes minutes

Within ten minutes, the temperature inside your car can increase by twenty degrees, even on a cloudy or overcast day. Even worse, children and their smaller bodies overheat up to five times faster than adults. So in the short amount of time it takes you to run into the store, your child can quickly overheat and die. But even if death doesn't occur, other physical injuries can occur from the sudden rise in temperature, including hearing loss, vision loss, and permanent brain injury.

Signs of Heatstroke

Children left in hot cars, whether intentionally or accidentally, can easily suffer from heatstroke, a fatal condition caused by elevated body temperatures. Your child may begin exhibiting signs of heat stroke long after they've spent a few minutes in a hot car.

Symptoms include:

  • A body temperature of 103 degrees or higher without sweating
  • Hot, red, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache, which may make them irritable
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Unconsciousness

Preventable Deaths

Death and injury caused by leaving a child in a hot car can be prevented by NOT leaving a child in a hot car. Always take your child with you when you leave the car, no matter how short you think the errand will be. If possible, leave the child home with a sibling, babysitter or other caretaker to avoid the risk altogether.

To help prevent yourself from absentmindedly forgetting that your child is with you, place your purse or wallet in the back seat with your child. Parents can also put a stuffed toy in the car seat when it is empty and move it to the front when the child is in the car. This is especially helpful for caregivers who are not used to traveling with a child.

Pets are No Different

Imagine sitting in your hot car in a fur coat and the only way you can cool down is by panting because your body is incapable of sweating. Sounds pretty miserable, right? Unlike children, pets are generally banned from most places of business, like grocery stores and restaurants. It's tempting to leave little Fido in the car while you run into that café for an iced coffee, but the same rules of car temperature apply. So leave the dogs at home where they are comfortable.

Like with a child, signs of heatstroke in your dog may start to show well after you've returned.

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include:

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased body temperature - above 103 degrees
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, uncoordinated or drunken movement
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened