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Hot Cars and Heatstroke - Look before You Lock

Cartoon drawing of a family in a car with the sun shining on them.

Heatstroke is the number one killer of children, outside of car crashes. That's why Safe Kids New Hampshire, a program of the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), has joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to attempt to reduce these deaths by reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of heatstroke and leaving children in hot vehicles. According to the Kids and Cars, Inc. website in 2018, 52 children died from being in a hot vehicle.

As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also rises. According to Safe Kids New Hampshire once a vehicle is turned off, t takes less than 10 minutes for the temperature to rise 19 degrees. And that one average, one child dies from heatstroke from being left in a vehicle, in more than half of these deaths the child was forgotten by their caregiver.

Safe Kids New Hampshire urges all parents and caregivers to do these four things:

  1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended.
  2. Make it a habit to look in the backseat every time you exit the car.
  3. Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach. And, if you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away.
  4. Always keep personal items such as purses on the rear floor so that checking the rear seat area becomes habit.

Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include:

  • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Acting strangely

If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water or with a garden hose, never use an ice bath. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

Look before you lock.

Find more safety tips from Safe Kids' New Hampshire.