In the time it takes to run into the store and grab some milk, stand in line at the post office or go inside to pay for gas – in just 10 minutes – the temperature inside a car can rise 19 degrees. When summer temperatures are in the 90s, that means the temperature in a car will be more than 109 degrees in a matter of minutes.
According to the State Fire Marshal, since 1998, at least 432 children in the United States died of hyperthermia after being left unattended in a vehicle. Since 1999, approximately 18 children in North Carolina have died from heat exposure after being left unattended – including one earlier this year.
"The death of a child in a hot car is a tragedy that is totally preventable," said State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel. "The air inside a car can heat up very quickly. Heat stroke occurs when a person’s temperature reaches 104 degrees; 107 degrees is considered lethal. Heat is much more dangerous to children than to adults.”
"When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s temperature may increase as much as five times faster than an adult’s body temperature."
Follow these tips to protect your kids this summer:
- Never leave a child alone in a vehicle.
- When parking your vehicle at home, always lock car doors and trunks, and keep keys out of children’s reach. Teach children that cars are not places to play.
- Watch children closely around cars, particularly when loading and unloading. Make sure that all children leave the vehicle with you when you reach your destination. Don’t forget sleeping infants.
- Busy parents have a lot on their minds, so give yourself a reminder. Place your purse, briefcase or other important items in the backseat next to your child’s car seat so you have to look in the back before leaving the car. As an alternative, keep a stuffed toy in your child’s car seat. When you put your child in the seat, move the toy up front as a reminder.
- If you see a child or pet left unattended in a vehicle, call 911 immediately.