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Warm Weather and Automobiles Can Be a Deadly Mix

By Dr. Eric Lupoli
Reliant Medical Group Internal Medicine

Death by heatstroke in cars continues to be a problem in America. Since 1998, the average number of deaths caused by children being left inside cars is 37 per year. All of these tragic deaths could have been avoided.

Many people don’t realize that even if the outside temperature is only 60 degrees, a car can still reach temperatures inside of over 110 degrees. On a hot day, even rolling down the windows or parking in the shade does little to keep a car’s interior cool. It takes only 15 minutes for a car parked in the hot sun to reach 130 degrees, which can be deadly to children or anyone else inside.

Most hot car deaths of children are caused by parents who simply “forget” that their children are inside the car. Even the most careful and attentive parents can become distracted and forget that they have a child in the back seat. It’s important to know that the body temperature of a child rises quicker than that of an adult, making them more susceptible to heatstroke. Leaving the windows down a bit before you run into the store to do an errand is not enough to prevent a tragedy. Parents should never leave a child unattended inside a vehicle, not even for a few minutes.

High-Tech Solutions to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

Some manufacturers have developed ways to help remind parents that they have children inside the car. General Motors offers a Rear Seat Reminder system as a standard feature on some Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC models. The integrated system reminds the driver to check the back seat for a child using chimes and a reminder on the instrument panel. Evenflo, the child car seat manufacturer, makes some child seats with “SensorSafe” technology that alert the driver that a baby or child is inside the car.

Below are some more tips to help your children and pets stay safe in the hot weather months.

How to Prevent Car Deaths If You Are a Parent

  1. Keep something you need in the backseat (like your briefcase or cellphone).
  2. Always look in the back before you lock up your car.
  3. Put a stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the backseat.
  4. Arrange to have your childcare provider call you if your child does not show up for daycare or school.
  5. Consider using an electronic reminder device to help prevent hot car deaths

Hot Car Deaths Affect Pets Too

Each year, many pets also die from heatstroke after being locked inside vehicles. Many of these deaths are caused by a simple lack of knowledge. Pets, just like young children, cannot deal with extreme temperatures as easily as their human adult owners. That’s why you should always leave your pets at home when you are out shopping or doing errands. Keeping the windows partly open is not enough to save your pet from heatstroke on a warm, sunny day. Never make a habit of leaving your pet inside your car. It’s a dangerous practice that can lead to heartbreak.

Steps to Take If Your Pet Becomes Overheated

If you see signs of heat stress such as heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, vomiting, a staggering gait or a deep red or purple tongue on your pet, you need to take action immediately.

  • Move your pet to a cooler area.
  • Gradually lower your pet’s body temperature. Place cool wet towels over the body, especially the back of the neck, armpits and groin.
  • Offer fresh, cool water if your pet is alert enough to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.
  • Take your pet immediately to a veterinarian.
Warm Weather and Automobiles Can Be a Deadly Mix

About Eric Lupoli, DO

Dr. Eric Lupoli started his undergraduate career as an engineering major but quickly realized that he wanted a profession that allowed him to have a daily direct impact on people’s lives. So he moved on to obtain his medical degree at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME.

Dr. Lupoli’s philosophy of care includes following a holistic plan and helping his patients prevent illness by reinforcing the benefits of a healthy...

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