Children at Risk for Vehicular Heatstroke as Temperatures Rise

Each year, a number of children will be left in hot vehicles and face the possible threat of having heatstroke.  So far, in 2019, there have been 2 heatstroke deaths due to children being left in vehicles.  In 2018, there were 51 vehicular heatstroke deaths.

Children’s internal temperature systems are not as effective as adults; they can be in danger within minutes if left in a hot vehicle.  Heatstroke can occur when a person’s temperature reaches above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  This causes a person’s ability to maintain a healthy body temperature to be compromised.  Symptoms of heatstroke include: dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, seizures and loss of consciousness to name a few.  Heatstroke can happen to a child left in a vehicle with relatively moderate temperatures outside such as 70 degrees.  A vehicle’s internal temperature can increase 19 degrees in just 10 minutes.  Dark dash boards, seats and steering wheels attract sunlight and give off radiation which can warm the surrounding air.

What Parents and Guardians Can Do:

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There are many reasons why children get left in hot vehicles. Some children ended up in vehicles alone by climbing into them while unattended.  Most children who were left in hot vehicles alone were forgotten about by an adult, while some parents intentionally left their children in them.  Common factors in most cases are stress, lack of sleep or a change in daily routine.  Regardless of the reason, a child should never be left in a vehicle. 

Below is a list of safety tips for parents:

  • Never leave a child alone in or near a vehicle.
  • Put a purse, briefcase or bagged lunch in the backseat as an additional reminder.
  • Make a habit out of opening the back door of your vehicle every time you park .
  • Always lock your vehicle and keep keys out of children’s reach.
  • Teach children the importance of never entering a vehicle alone

Twenty states, including Pennsylvania, have laws against leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.  If you see a child left in a vehicle, contact emergency officials immediately.


Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, “Heatstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles.”

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