Doctors' Orders: Heatstroke and Hot Cars

Temperatures inside a car on a hot day can cause heatstroke very quickly.

Summer is a fun and busy time for families, but that can also bring safety risks. Young children are at the greatest risk of becoming heatstroke victims.

What happens to a child’s body during heatstroke: Their core temperature reaches 104 degrees quickly leading to possible brain damage or even death. (A child’s body can heat up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s body.)

On average, 38 kids die in hot cars every year across the country and every one of those deaths can be prevented. Most of these tragedies happen when a child is forgotten by a caregiver or a child is playing in an unattended vehicle. Here are 4 prevention tips to keep your child safe from the summer heat.

  1. NEVER leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute. (It CAN happen to you. Even the best parents can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car)
  2. Make it a habit to look in the backseat every time you exit the car (put something like a cell phone, purse, work ID badge or briefcase in the back to require you to check).
  3. Always lock the car and put the keys out of reach.
  4. Take Action if you see a child alone in a car, call 911. One call could save a life.

-- Reviewed by Dr. Katy Stordahl, Children's Hospital ER Physician

Doctors' Orders is an ongoing series featuring articles from the experts at East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

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