Child Heatstroke in Cars: A Preventable Tragedy

As a busy parent, you’re juggling all kinds of things all day long. With appointments, work commitments, and day-to-day responsibilities, you’re always on the go. But while you’re driving from place to place, it’s time to stop and remember the dangers of vehicular heatstroke for a child accidentally left inside a car.

During our North Dakota summers, it doesn’t take long for a car to heat up to life-threatening levels — even on relatively mild days. The good news is that with a little awareness and education, you can avoid this tragedy from happening to you.


How Vehicular Heatstroke Happens

Understanding the most common ways vehicular heatstroke occurs can help you prepare and take extra precautions to ensure the safety of your child.

  • The most common way heatstroke tragedies happen in a vehicle is when a parent or caregiver unintentionally leaves a child in a hot car because they forgot, got distracted, or were off their normal daily routine.
  • The second most common way children find themselves in hot cars is by climbing inside an unlocked vehicle, without their parent knowing, to play, explore or find a lost toy.
  • In some cases, parents and caregivers knowingly left children in vehicles without realizing how quickly they can heat up in both the sun and shade.


Facts About Vehicular Heatstroke

  • A car can heat up 20 degrees in just 10 minutes and cracking a window won’t keep a vehicle cool.
  • Young children are particularly at risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s body. Children less than a year old make up 30% of vehicle-related heatstroke deaths.
  • The temperature inside a vehicle can be 30-40 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. This means when it’s 80 degrees outside, it can be 120 degrees inside a car.
  • Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, overwhelming the body’s thermoregulatory system.
  • Heatstroke fatalities have occurred even in cars parked in shaded areas and when the outside temp is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.


The Warning Signs of Heatstroke

  • Red, hot and moist or dry skin
  • Absence of sweating, even though the child is warm
  • Strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness, nausea or confusion
  • Grouchiness or strange behavior


Simple Steps to Keep Your Kids Safe

Parents and caregivers: Never leave a child alone in a car. Always remember to ACT.

 Creating Awareness About Vehicular Heatstroke and Children: A Mother’s Story

When a devoted, loving, North Dakota mom loses her child to heatstroke, she decides to share her heartbreaking story as a cautionary tale to create awareness and educate others about the dangers of vehicle-related heatstroke. Watch the short video here.

Forgetting your child in a vehicle is unthinkable and unimaginable. Yet, the harsh reality is that deaths from heatstroke in cars can and do happen. By taking a few steps, you can help prevent this tragedy from happening to you and the little passengers you love.


Additional Resources