NEWS | June 1, 2017

High temperatures pose danger to kids, pets left in cars

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

With summer just around the corner, it’s important to remember that it is never safe for a child or pet to be left alone in a car – even if the windows are rolled down.

Photo of child in hot car
A child's body temperature can rise three to five times faster than an adult.

Since 1998, there have been more than 700 child vehicular heat stroke deaths in the United States. These cases happen when kids are left unattended in a car – either they are mistakenly forgotten, or the child gets into an unlocked car without the parent knowing.

“A child’s body temperature can rise very quickly; three to five times faster than an adult,” said Constantine Dimitriades, pediatric intensive care unit physician at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “If a child’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees, they can show signs of heat exhaustion. If a child's body temperature rises above 107 degrees, their body cells can start to break down and die.”

Even if the outside temperature is relatively low, the vehicle’s interior temperature can rise very quickly

Experts recommend parents follow the following tips for parents:

  • Look before you lock. Check the backseat every time you park your car, even if you think you are childless.
  • Keep something you need in the backseat. Put your purse, cell phone, shoes, or anything essential for your day, in the backseat.
  • Always lock the doors and put the keys away. This helps prevent kids from playing with keys or getting into the car without parents' knowledge.
  • Have a plan with your childcare provider. If your child does not show up at daycare or school without prior notice, someone should call you.
  • If you see something, say something. If you see a child alone in a car, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“There’s no safe amount of time for a child to be left in a car,” Dimitriades said. 

View the 60-second safety spot about keeping kids out of hot cars.

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as the West Coast's only level I children's surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.