Preventing Heatstroke

Updated: 7/3/18

Each year in the United States we witness an average of 37 deaths of young children due to vehicular heatstroke. As of July 2018, 18 children (with two other cases still pending results for cause of death) have already lost their lives after being left inside hot cars. With an incredibly hot summer upon us, it’s critical to discuss the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles or leaving vehicles unsecured.

When these accidents happen, they devastate everyone involved. But education and awareness are the best ways to prevent them from happening again. Many manufacturers are attempting to develop products to help parents and caregivers become more diligent when it comes to children and cars, but for many people, to fully understand the issue will be most important.

Understanding Vehicular Heatstroke:

  • Heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. When inside a hot vehicle, this happens rapidly.
  • Heatstroke can occur in children in a matter of minutes. Unlike adults, children (especially infants under age two) are especially sensitive to temperature. Their body temperature can warm five times faster than an adult’s.
  • If the sun is out, a car in mild or even cool weather can rapidly warm in just 10 minutes, even if a window is cracked. In just 20 minutes, the temperature in a vehicle can rise 30 degrees and become fatal for children or pets.

While it is easy to criticize parents or caregivers who have forgotten children in cars, it’s important to understand that many factors like stress or lack of sleep can cause lapses in memory that allow this to happen. Hundreds of overwhelmed, overtired adults have mistakenly left their children in cars, forgotten to drop sleeping children off at daycare or did not realize their children climbed into the car. For some parents, it’s just a close call, but for others the mistake is fatal.

In instances where children suffer vehicular heatstroke, most children are mistakenly forgotten, or the child enters a vehicle with an adult’s knowledge and becomes stuck – just a small percentage of children die because their parents thought it was safe to leave them.

Five tips for parents and caregivers:

  1. No matter how busy you are, you should never leave a child alone in a vehicle for any length of time.
  2. Open the back door and look in the backseat to ensure everyone is out of the car. Every time.
  3. Always lock the doors and keep car keys and remote openers out of reach of children. Even if the car is in the garage, keep the doors locked to prevent curious children from getting into the car.
  4. Remain especially careful during busy times, schedule changes and periods of crisis or holidays. Also remember that getting enough sleep is critical to your mental health.
  5. Talk to your child’s school, daycare and caregivers about putting a system in place to contact you if you ever deviate from your usual drop-off schedule without prior notice.

Please share these important safety tips with your child care providers, teachers, relatives, friends, family and neighbors. It’s easy to assume that a tragedy like this will never touch our lives, but it can happen to anyone.

In the event of a serious injury caused by someone else, the personal injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham are here to help and answer your questions.  Call us at 800-800-5678, or start a live chat with us anytime at

Jill Erin Wellskopf
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Director of Marketing, Hupy and Abraham