Arizona temperatures have been leading the news this month, but even Southern California’s milder temperatures can result in headline-grabbing tragedies when children and pets are left in cars. Many people don’t realize that when the temperature outside is a comfortable 72-degrees Fahrenheit, the interior of a car becomes a deadly oven within 30 minutes, even if windows are cracked.
Children’s bodies can’t adjust to extreme heat as easily as adults’, so the effects of high temperatures affect them more quickly. That means that spending even a short time in 90 or 100 degrees can cause children to have muscle cramps, dehydration, irritability, headaches, weakness and exhaustion. Once a child’s body temperature hits 104 degrees, heatstroke is likely. A heatstroke can cause permanent damage to the brain and vital organs as well as death.
Signs of heat exhaustion:
- Increased thirst
- Increased sweating
- Muscle cramps, muscle pain
- Nausea, vomiting
Signs of heatstroke:
- Temperature of 104 degrees or higher
- Nausea, vomiting
- Disorientation, delirium
- Lack of sweating
- Difficulty breathing
On both cloudy and sunny days, temperatures rise quickly in cars. Accidents involving children left in vehicles are tragic. Parking in the shade and cracking the windows may extend the time it takes for a car to heat up, but only slightly. Parents and pet owners often leave a child or dog in a car to run in somewhere for “just a few minutes.” Perhaps to pick up dry cleaning, buy some milk, or grab a cup of coffee. But people are bad at estimating how long an errand will take and things often happen to extend the time it takes. Maybe there is a long line or the person decides to buy a few things instead of just one. Or an unexpected phone call distracts them. And 20 minutes has passed.
How quickly does a car heat up?
In 20 minutes on a sunny 70-degree day the inside of a car will be about 100 degrees, with or without the windows cracked. Children and pets will show signs of heat exhaustion. Within 30 minutes temperatures are high enough to cause a fatal heatstroke. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics showed the following temperature increases in cars.
start / at 5 min. / at 10 min. / at 20 min. / at 30 min.
73 / 83 / 90 / 100 / 104
77 / 94 / 100 / 106 / 110
84 / 96 / 102 / 111 / 116
If a child shows any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Try to cool down the child’s body with air condition and cold cloths. If the child is conscious and able to drink, give cool fluids containing salt and sugar.
Cerritos, California has about 280 sunny days each year. Even in our coldest months, average temperatures don’t get much colder than 60 degrees. In sunny Southern California, the risk of heat stroke is too great to ever leave a child or pet in a car—even for a few minutes. Prevent car accidents like these by always taking people and pets out of parked cars.
Automobile accidents happen in many different ways. If you or a loved one has been injured, call the car accident attorneys at Cerritos Legal today at 562-865-9356 for your free consultation.
Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration