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Dangerous summer heat: Never leave children alone in the car

The Shawnee News-Star
Summer heat

The Oklahoma heat has arrived, which serves as an important reminder to never ever leave a child in a car, according to officials from SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital - Shawnee.

According to, in 2019, it is estimated that 52 U.S. children died of heatstroke after being left in hot cars. Between 1990 and 2019, it is estimated that 25 Oklahoma children died. The advocacy and education nonprofit organization says the figures are likely an undercount because there are no official data collection systems. 

The temperature inside a car rises almost 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When temperatures outside are in the 80s, the inside of a car can reach close to 125 degrees within 60 minutes according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches 104 degrees.

Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. It occurs when the body isn't able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.

Young children are particularly at risk as their body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's. When a child's internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child's temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child can die. Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 19 degrees in 10 minutes – tragedies can happen faster than you think.

Symptoms can quickly progress from flushed, dry skin and vomiting to seizures, organ failure and death.

Here are some safety tips to remember if your child or pet is in the backseat:

Make it a habit to open the backdoor of your car every time you park, even if you know you do not have a child or pet in the backseat;

Keep a belonging like a cellphone, wallet or purse in the backseat so you will open the back door to get those items;

Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it’s not occupied. When the child is in the seat, place the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder;

Always keep your vehicle locked so children cannot accidentally get trapped inside when the vehicle is not in use.