Hazards of Hot Cars

By: Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH

The statistics are alarming. On average, 37 children die from heat stroke every summer in the United States after getting trapped inside hot cars.

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center embraces every opportunity to get the word out about the need to prevent such tragedies as part of our “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock” campaign.  I was proud to participate in an exercise hosted by the town of Coventry to raise awareness about the problem.  It’s a potentially life-saving exercise that Connecticut Children’s broadcast live on Facebook.

As part of that exercise, Rep. Joe Courtney (D- CT 2nd District) climbed into a hot car along with two other men, state Rep. Doug Dubitsky (R- 47th District) and Micah Welintukonis, a Coventry resident and U.S. Army veteran.

When the three entered the car, the temperature inside measured 80 degrees.

Within two minutes, the temperature climbed to 92 degrees.

Within 10 minutes, the temperature soared to 102 degrees.

Think about what would happen to a child left in a hot car like that. The temperature inside a car can quickly rise to 104 degrees.  When a person’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees, they will become disoriented, begin to have convulsions, and get quite uncomfortable.  When a person’s body temperature reaches 106 degrees, vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys stop working which can result in severe injuries or even death.  What many people don’t realize is that children overheat three to five times faster than adults.

Here are three steps you can take to prevent a tragedy:

  1. Avoid heat stroke injury by never leaving your child alone in the car. Also, lock the doors after you leave your car to prevent a child from climbing inside and getting trapped.
  2. Create reminders for yourself by leaving a briefcase, a purse, a cell phone or a shoe in the backseat so you will have to check the backseat when you exit the vehicle.
  3. Take immediate action and call 911 if you see a child left unattended inside a locked car.

Garry Lapidus, PA-C, MPH, is the director of the Connecticut Children’s Injury Prevention Center and an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

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