Hot cars and heatstroke: look before you lock

Cartoon drawing of a family in a car with the sun shining on them.

Park. Look. Lock.

As outside temperatures rise, the risk of children dying from being left alone inside a hot vehicle also rises. According to The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 912 children have died from heatstroke in cars since 1998—all of them preventable.

To protect children from the dangers of heatstroke and leaving children in hot vehicles, Safe Kids New Hampshire urges all parents and caregivers to do these five things:

  1. Never leave a child in a vehicle unattended—not even for a minute.
  2. Make it a habit to look in the backseat every time you exit the car.
  3. Always keep personal items such as purses or wallets on the rear floor so that checking the rear seat area becomes habit, or put a teddy bear in the passenger seat as reminder to check the back seat before you exit the vehicle.
  4. Always lock the car and put the keys/key fobs out of reach.
  5. If you ever see a child left alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 right away.

Know the warning signs of heatstroke, which include:

  • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Acting strangely

If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Cool the child rapidly with cool water or wet rags; never use an ice bath. Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult, and heatstroke can occur in temperatures as low as 57 degrees. On an 80-degree day, a car can reach deadly levels in just 10 minutes.

Find more safety tips and resources from Safe Kids or the NHTSA.

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