High Temperatures Pose Danger to Kids, Pets Left in Cars

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UC Davis Children's Hospital offers tips for keeping loved ones safe from the heat

Child in hot car

A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult.

There’s no safe amount of time for a child to be left in a car.

With summer just around the corner, it’s important to remember that it is never safe for a child or pet to be left alone in a car – even if the windows are rolled down.

Since 1998, there have been more than 700 child vehicular heat stroke deaths in the United States. These cases happen when kids are left unattended in a car – either they are mistakenly forgotten, or the child gets into an unlocked car without the parent knowing.

“A child’s body temperature can rise very quickly; three to five times faster than an adult,” said Constantine Dimitriades, pediatric intensive care unit physician at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “If a child’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees, they can show signs of heat exhaustion. If a child's body temperature rises above 107 degrees, their body cells can start to break down and die.”

Even if the outside temperature is relatively low, the vehicle’s interior temperature can rise very quickly.

Experts recommend parents follow the following tips:

  • Look before you lock. Check the backseat every time you park your car, even if you think you are childless.
  • Keep something you need in the backseat. Put your purse, cell phone, shoes, or anything essential for your day, in the backseat.
  • Always lock the doors and put the keys away. This helps prevent kids from playing with keys or getting into the car without parents' knowledge.
  • Have a plan with your childcare provider. If your child does not show up at daycare or school without prior notice, someone should call you.
  • If you see something, say something. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“There’s no safe amount of time for a child to be left in a car,” Dimitriades said.

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