There were two close calls in Iowa last week with children being left locked inside hot cars. Both children survived the incidents in Iowa City and Cedar Falls and two adults are charged. Nationwide, 14 infants have died this year after being left inside hot vehicles.
BeLinda DeBolt, administrator of the Page County Public Health Department in Shenandoah, says it doesn’t take long for the heat to skyrocket in a closed car. "When the outside temperature is 93 degrees, even with the window cracked, the temperature inside a car can reach 125 degrees in just 20 minutes and 140 degrees in 40 minutes," DeBolt says.
Last year, there were at least 42 deaths in the United States due to hyperthermia after infants were left in hot vehicles. Since 1998, there have been at least 428 of these deaths. These incidents can happen with relatively mild temperatures, even 70 degrees, as DeBolt says vehicles can occur reach life-threatening temperatures very quickly.
"Extreme heat rapidly overwhelms the body’s ability to regulate the temperature, so the body can go into shock and circulation and vital organs will begin to fail when it gets too hot," DeBolt says. "Infants and small children are particularly vulnerable due to their body configuration." DeBolt shares a few important tips for keeping children from playing in cars without their parents’ permission.
"Keep your cars locked at all times, even if it’s in the garage or driveway," she says. "We don’t want to teach our children to play in or around cars." She adds, keep car keys out of children’s reach and out of their sight.
A study of 361 child vehicular hyperthermia deaths for a ten-year period (1998 through 2007) shows the following circumstances: 51% – child "forgotten" by caregiver, 30% – child playing in unattended vehicle, 18% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult, and 1% – circumstances unknown.