In Summer Heat, Check the Back Seat!

By WeatherBug Meteorologist Andrew Rosenthal

Every summer, it seems that we hear the story of young children and pets dying when left in a hot car while their parents run a quick errand. The metal of the car’s body acts like a greenhouse, allowing the temperature to soar several degrees above the level in the air outside. When faced with these temperatures, the body is unable to fight the heat, and serious health risks develop. However, a few short steps of prevention can make all the difference.

In summer, interior car temperatures can climb to deadly levels even when cars have windows cracked open or when they are parked in the shade. When temperatures reach 80 degrees outside, temperatures can reach 120 to 130 degrees in just 15 to 20 minutes.

One of the main risks of being left in a hot car is heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature reaches more than 104 degrees, damaging your heart, brain, kidneys and muscles, and eventually serious complications or death. Even more so, children’s thermoregulatory systems are not as good as adults’ – their body temperature can heat up three to five times faster than adults – putting them at risk even faster.

Similarly, don’t leave your pet in the car. Animals such as dogs pant to cool themselves down – this moves heat and moisture away from their lungs. However, if their body`s temperature or the humidity level gets too high, this “natural air conditioner” stops working, and their temperature will very quickly skyrocket.

A couple of years ago, WeatherBug Meteorologist Jacob Wycoff did a simulation in which he sat in a car for 30 minutes. Watch the video here.

What can you do? First, plan ahead. Bring other things outside before you bring your child to the car. Put something you’d need in the back seat so that you have to remember to go to the back seat.

As a parent of a toddler, my wife and I use a rule of thumb of “last in, first out” – no matter where we are, my son is the first thing we take out of the car after we park, and the last thing into the car before we get in ourselves. Remember, minutes count, so check the back seat!

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This entry was posted in Awareness, Safety, Summer.
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