Heatstroke and Car Safety

The second chapter in our Summer Safety Series focuses on two things we need to protect — our children and pets. Busy lives and endless responsibilities can make us forgetful and sometimes careless. When it comes to child safety, especially in the summer, we need to slow down, set reminders for ourselves, and check the seat.

As the temperature outside rises, so do the heatstroke-related deaths of children (and pets) left in hot vehicles. According to heatkills.org, at 70 degrees on a sunny day, after 30 minutes, the temperature inside a car can reach 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172. Even on mild or cloudy days, temperatures inside vehicles can reach life-threatening levels. “Cracking a window” won’t help. Children should never be left unattended in a car or be able to get inside a vehicle alone.

The National Safety Council reports:
  • Number of U.S. pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths, (so far) 2019: 11
    • U.S. pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths, 2018: 52
    • U.S. pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths, 1998-present: 806
  • The average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year 1998-2018: 38
  • The children that have died from vehicular heatstroke in the United States (1998-2018) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years. More than half of the deaths (54%) are children under 2 years of age.

Per Webmd.com, heatstroke is defined as a temperature of 104 degrees or higher with severe symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, seizures, disorientation or delirium, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, and coma.

A child with heat stroke should be rushed to the ER immediately. Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature is high, including vital organ damage like the brain to swell, possibly resulting in permanent damage. (resource: Mayoclinic.org)

If you see a child unattended in a car, call 911 immediately. If it’s a life or death situation, break the window. The risk is worth saving a child’s life in a crisis situation.

Signs of Dehydration

Early signs of dehydration include:

  • fatigue
  • thirst
  • dry lips and tongue
  • lack of energy
  • feeling overheated

If kids feel thirsty, they’re already dehydrated. Thirst doesn’t really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight through sweat.

Fur Babies Need Saving Too

The same warnings go for our pets as well. Every year, dogs die when their owners leave them in a hot car for just a “quick minute” when running errands or grabbing a bite to eat. Hot cars are deathtraps for dogs. Animals can develop brain damage or even die from heatstroke in only 15 minutes. Dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting.

11 states so far have granted the right to citizens to use any means necessary, such as smashing a window, to save a distressed dog. Those states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

If you see a dog left alone in a hot car:

  • Take a photo of the car’s color, model, make, and license plate.
  • Call local authorities and police or the fire department.
  • Have someone search for the owner.
  • Don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
  • If the dog is clearly suffering from heatstroke and it’s a matter of life or death, break the window. Paying for a window is worth saving a life.
It’s Hot Enough to Fry An Egg

Have you heard this saying before? Well in Texas, it’s true. When walking your dog, keep in mind that if it feels hot enough to fry an egg outside, the ground probably is. In the sun, asphalt can reach a sizzling 135 degrees — more than hot enough to cook an egg AND the bottom of your dog’s paws.

Hot sidewalks, pavement, and parking lots can cause burns, damage, and scarring after just one minute of contact. Rapid burns and blistering can occur at 150 degrees. Hot pavement can also increase the heat in dogs’ bodies, causing heatstroke. Walk your dog during the cooler part of the day in the shade and on the grass, or at night.




Watch for symptoms such as:

  • restlessness
  • excessive thirst
  • thick saliva
  • heavy panting
  • lethargy
  • lack of appetite
  • dark tongue
  • rapid heartbeat
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • bloody diarrhea
  • lack of coordination

If a dog shows any of these symptoms, get him or her out of the heat, preferably into an air-conditioned vehicle, and then to a vet immediately. If you are unable to transport the dog yourself, take him or her into an air-conditioned building if possible and call animal control.

To find your nearest facility location, go to SurepointER.com

Surepoint Emergency Center is a modern emergency medical facility open 24/7/365. As an alternative to the traditional hospital ER experience, we offer convenience and minimal wait time, along with highly-trained emergency medical staff and state-of-the-art equipment.

Our top priority is bringing high-quality emergency care, quickly and easily to your family. We are committed to making patients feel better faster in a comforting and compassionate environment.

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