Children die in hot vehicles every year. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the ability to maintain or control body temperature is overwhelmed. Vehicles heat up quickly – even with a window rolled down two inches. If the outside temperature is in the low 80°s Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes! Children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature may increase three to five times as fast an adult. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.
Warning signs of heatstroke include:
- Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
- No sweating, even though the child is warm
- Strong rapid pulse or slow weak pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Confusion, or acting strangely
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- Always check the back seat before you lock the vehicle and walk away.
- Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving a vehicle. Put something you will need like your cell phone, handbag, or briefcase, etc., in the back seat to create a reminder to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
- Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Distractions and/or a change in routine increase the risk of forgetting a child in a back seat. If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine is altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
- Have a strict policy in place with the childcare provider about morning drop-off.
- If your child will not be attending childcare as scheduled, the parent’s responsibility is to call and inform the childcare provider.
- If the child does not show up as scheduled, and the child care provider did not receive a call, the childcare provider pledges to contact the parent immediately to ensure the safety of your child.
- Never leave a child alone in a car.
- Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
- Never leave a child in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
- Observe and Report: If you see a child alone in a car, call 911, especially on warm days!
It’s unsafe and bad practice to leave a child unattended in a car for any reason, even for a quick stop – e.g. in a parking lot or elsewhere to pick up food from a restaurant. In PA, it is a summary offense as specified in PA Statute Title 75 3701.1 Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle.
For heatstroke prevention information cited above, click here. For other traffic injury prevention information, contact the PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PA-TIPP) at 1-800-CARBELT, 484-446-3008 or see their website and resource page. Updated 5/31/2022