It’s common knowledge that leaving a child, a disabled adult or a pet alone in a closed vehicle on a hot day is extremely dangerous. So why do we still hear about the dozens of deaths each year? Did you know that on an average 80° summer day it takes just over two minutes for a car to go from a safe temperature to an unsafe one? Two minutes! It takes more time than that to fill your gas tank.
“Depending on outside air temperatures, the interior temp can increase by over 30 degrees in 30 minutes” says Dr. Kevin Carr of the Platteville Clinic at Southwest Health. When the sun hits an object in your car like a dark dashboard, car seat, or steering wheel, it can super heat it to over 180° in as little as ten minutes. Those items then heat the adjacent air and also give off longwave radiation which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle. In virtually no time your car becomes a heat trap for anyone inside.
Particularly vulnerable to heat stroke are children, disabled or elderly adults, and pets. When an individual or animal can’t escape the high temperatures to cool off they fall victims to hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is a serious condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate its internal temperature.
Leaving the windows slightly open does not decrease the heating rate in the vehicle enough to save them either. The same goes for those who live in houses without air conditioning. It’s always a good idea to check on friends, relatives, and neighbors who may not have the means to get out of the heat. If you or someone you know doesn’t have the means to keep their home cool, consider retreating to a local church, health care center, or community center during the hottest parts of the day to find relief.
Staying well hydrated and limiting strenuous outdoor activities are additional important ways to stay safe in the summer heat. Never leave a child, a disabled or elderly adult, or an animal alone in a hot vehicle for any extent of time. It’s equally important to avoid resting in your vehicle when it’s hot. So far this year there have been a shocking 15 reported child vehicular heat stroke deaths in the US. Be sure to check your vehicle before you leave it, no matter how busy you are. A life could depend on it.