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Keeping Families Safe: Vehicular Heatstroke

A young girl in a car seatMaricopa County residents are no strangers to high temperatures during the summer but it’s important to remember the dangers heat can bring during the summer months. Vehicular heatstroke affects those most vulnerable and is 100% preventable. Help put a stop to these preventable deaths by learning about and raising awareness of this issue.

What is it?

  • Heatstroke is exposure to high temperatures for an extended period of time. Vehicular heatstroke involves being trapped in a vehicle under these conditions.
  • Vehicular heatstroke can become fatal when the internal body core temperature reaches 107 degrees at which point the body is unable to cool itself down through normal processes such as perspiration.
  • Young children, pets, and the elderly are at a higher risk of vehicular heatstroke.
  • Heatstroke symptoms include dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and seizures.
  • To treat heatstroke, get the victim into a shady area, apply a wet towel to legs, neck, and armpits. If you are treating a young child, do not submerge them in an ice bath.

Quick Facts

  • It takes 10 minutes for the internal temperature of a car to increase 20 degrees.
  • Leaving a window open does not reduce the internal temperature of a vehicle.
  • A child’s internal body temperature warms five times faster than an adult’s body.
  • Vehicular heatstroke kills one child every nine days in the United States.
  • Nationally from 1998 to 2019, 849 children have died from vehicular heatstroke, 36 of these occurred in Arizona.
  • 54% of children who died from vehicular heatstroke were under 2 years of age.
  • 53.8% of children who died from vehicular heatstroke were forgotten by their caregiver.

Prevention Tips (ACT-Avoid Heatstroke, Create Reminders, Take Action)

  • Create a habit of opening the back door every time your park your car.
  • Set reminders at your workplace and at home to ensure your child is safe.
  • Place an item in the back seat next to your child to remind you they are there.
  • When there is a change in routine, set a reminder on your phone or have someone call you to confirm the child is safe.
  • Ask your childcare provider or school administrator to call you right away if your child hasn’t arrived.
  • Teach your children to honk if they are left behind or stuck inside a car.
  • Make sure your children can’t get into a parked car and ensure all doors are locked after parking at home.
  • If a child is missing, always check the car first, including the trunk.

Good Samaritan Law

  • In May of 2017, Governor Ducey signed House Bill 2494, which allows a “good Samaritan” to break a window to rescue a child or pet from a hot car under the following criteria:
    • You must notify law enforcement or emergency personnel first.
    • You must in good faith believe the child or pet’s life is in danger.
    • You must remain with the child or pet until emergency personnel arrives.
  • Don’t break the window next to the child or pet you are trying to rescue.

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