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Cars as Summer Death Traps

Aug. 7, 2014|696 views
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It should go without saying that you must never leave your child unattended in a closed, locked car. Not in winter, nor in summer. Not even for a moment. How about leaving the windows cracked for some ventilation? Just long enough to drop off the dry cleaning, or pick up a gallon of milk? No. Never. It's simply not safe. Never mind the risk of kidnapping. In summer the friendly family car can quickly become a death trap.



Over the past two decades, nearly 700 children have died in locked cars. This year alone, 18 children have been cooked alive in locked cars where they were either playing or were left by an adult. And the summer isn't over yet.

Most of those deaths were related to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a serious, potentially deadly condition, in which the body's internal temperature rises rapidly. Once the body reaches about 104 degrees, the internal organs begin shutting down. At a certain point, the proteins that make up our cells begin to undergo irreversible transformations, like egg whites cooking on a hot griddle. Because of their smaller size and underdeveloped systems, children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult. The temperature within a closed car can rise more than 20 degrees within 10 minutes. If it's already hot outside, that could spell oven-like temperatures shockingly fast.

July 31 was National Heat Stroke Prevention Day, and experts offer several suggestions for reducing the risk of this tragic occurrence. First, make sure kids never think of the car as a toy. Emphasize that it's not a place to play, and discourage kids from keeping toys in the car. Don't let them play in the front seat, or pretend to drive. Some of the 700 deaths over the past 20 years have resulted from kids playing in cars, getting locked in, and being unable to get out.

Second, try leaving reminders in your car. Perhaps a simple note on the dashboard reminding you to take little Susie out of her car seat. Finally, never, ever leave a child or pet in an unattended car. Not even for a moment. As a busy mother, I know it's tempting, especially when you're juggling more than one child at a time. But it's simply not worth the risk.

And, by the way, it doesn't even need to be hot out for the temperature to nearly double in a locked car. A cool 60 degree day could be enough to turn your car into an oven. Think of that egg in the frying pan...

Penn State Hershey Newsroom. News. Available at:


Tags:  health tips