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In the Hot Seat - Children’s Hospital Reminds Adults About the Dangers of Leaving Kids in Hot Cars on Sweltering Summer Days

With a heat wave stifling the region and temperatures climbing to more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC want to remind adults about the dangers of leaving kids in hot cars, even for a minute.

Nationwide, at least 16 children have died already this summer after being left inside hot vehicles, and Safe Kids Worldwide reports that about 25 children die each year from hyperthermia due to being left inside sweltering cars. “The vast majority of these situations are unintentional; adults they think they’ll only take a minute to run in to the store. But it is easy to get distracted, one minute turns into five and five minutes turns into 10,” said Barbara A. Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children’s.

“Temperatures inside vehicles can climb very quickly, high enough to cause a child to suffer the effects of heat-related illness, which can include fever, dehydration, seizures, stroke and even death, in a very short period of time.”

According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the temperatures inside a car during a summer day can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in just three minutes and to 125 degrees Fahrenheit in just six to eight minutes. Kids in Cars reports that only 11 states, including Pennsylvania, have laws prohibiting leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

However, heat-related dangers go beyond hot cars, because simply being outdoors on a summer day without proper hydration or over long periods of time can cause a child to overheat and become ill. High temperatures and humidity levels can be particularly dangerous to kids, says Dr. Gaines. Children’s experts warn that kids are more vulnerable to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke because their bodies are less efficient at cooling than adults’ bodies are.

Children’s offers tips to keep kids safe from heat-related illnesses:

  • Never leave a child in a car.
  • Be sure to keep kids hydrated with water, even if they say they are not thirsty.
  • Have children take frequent breaks to rest and cool down.
  • Have kids wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Become familiar with symptoms of heat-related illnesses, including cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue and weakness.
  • If a child shows any sign of a heat stroke, take him or her to an emergency room right away.

Learn more safety tips and signs of heat- related illnesses from Children’s Injury Prevention Web site.

Contacts:

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016, Marc.Lukasiak@chp.edu
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016, Melanie.Finnigan@chp.edu

Last Update
April 21, 2008
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Last Update
April 21, 2008
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