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Self-Care

Protecting Children From the Hazardous Combination of Cars and Summer Heat


As the school year dwindles down and the temperatures heat up, you'll need to be more aware of the potentially dangerous combination of cars and children.

Outside heat can quickly raise temperatures inside a car to potentially lethal levels, according to Barb Bailey, an injury prevention specialist for the Colorado SAFE KIDS Coalition, who urged parents never to leave their children inside a vehicle during the summer heat — even just for a few minutes.

"Cracking a window to let air in does nothing to protect children from hyperthermia or abnormally high body temperatures. Inside vehicle temperatures rise quickly," Bailey said.

In fact, says the Colorado SAFE KIDS Coalition, when the outside temperature is 93 degrees Fahrenheit and a vehicle window is down one-and-a-half inches, the temperature inside the car can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit in just 20 minutes and approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit in 40 minutes.

Other safety precautions to combat heat-related injuries in cars, the coalition said, include:

  • If a child gets locked inside the car, dial 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Before buckling a child in a car, make certain to check the temperature of the car seat surface and safety belt buckles to prevent serious burns.
  • Use a light covering to shade the seat of a parked vehicle. Consider using windshield shades in front and back windows.

You'll also need to be vigilant when your car is not in use, because unlocked cars can pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear, Bailey added. Last summer alone, 11 children nationwide died when they were unintentionally trapped in the trunks of unattended vehicles.

"Kids can get in, but can't always get out," said Bailey. "In very hot weather, heat stroke may result and could lead to permanent disability or even death in a matter of minutes."

Bailey provided the following safety tips to prevent children from becoming trapped in vehicles' trunks:

  • Teach children not to play in or around vehicles.
  • Keep the doors and trunk of the vehicle locked when parked in the driveway or near the home. It will prevent children from opening the doors and locking themselves inside the vehicle.
  • Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the vehicle.
  • Put car keys out of children's reach and sight.
  • Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach children how to disable the driver's door locks if they unintentionally become trapped in a vehicle.
  • Contact the automobile dealership where the vehicle was purchased about getting the vehicle retrofitted with a trunk-release mechanism.

You can get a free copy of "Trunks Are For Elephants, Not For Kids," an educational guide from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and General Motors, which discusses the dangers of trunk entrapment in hot weather, as well as other hazards posed to children by parked vehicles, by calling (303) 692-2589.

Copyright 2000 Health Resources Publishing


© 2000 Health Resources Publishing