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Heatstroke Deaths in Hot Cars

The death of a pet is in no way the same as the death of a child. But it can be emotionally devastating for a family when their beloved pet dies due to heatstroke in a hot vehicle. This happened a couple of years ago to my sister and her family. They still experience guilt and blame over who left the car door open/who shut it/how was the dog not located promptly….. I cannot fathom how all this would be magnified in the case of a child left in a hot car, but this scenario resulted in 52 fatalities last year in the U.S. And in 2020 as of the first of June, there have been two deaths of children. In one case a four year old climbed into a car and couldn’t get out. In the other case an infant appears to have been forgotten in the car.

In this COVID-19 time caregivers might not be as vigilant about their children playing outside and getting into unlocked cars as they should, or they might be tempted to leave their kids in the car while they dash into a store or a restaurant for a few minutes. Research tells us that in just 10 minutes on a sunny day, a car’s interior can heat up 19 degrees, then can reach fatal temperatures quickly. Over the last year Maryland has had some near-misses where children were left in the car while their parent “ran a quick errand.” Fortunately bystanders noticed the children and called 9-1-1, and first responders were able to rescue the children in time.

As summer fast approaches but the Maryland stay-at-home orders and telecommuting continue, everyone needs to remember that children and pets cannot be in a vehicle unattended, even for a short period.

Safe Kids WorldWide has a few reminders to help prevent the problem of heatstroke to children (and pets) in cars. They recommend you “ACT”:

Avoid hyperthermia-related deaths by never leaving your child alone in a car and always locking doors and trunks;

Create reminders and habits for you and your child’s caregivers to serve as a safety net to ensure you don’t forget your child;

Take action if you see a child unattended in a vehicle by immediately calling 9-1-1.

Maryland Healthcare providers can get free resources from MIEMSS EMSC CSP Healthcare Project to help educate on this topic:

Posters (also available in a clear plastic stand to become a tabletop display)


Social media messages and images to share on your media platforms

Stand up display-poster to borrow for use in a lobby or waiting room

Large outdoor temperature display to borrow and use with a vehicle to show how quickly cars heat up

Contact to get information and materials.

Susanne Ogaitis-Jones, MIEMSS’ Child Passenger Safety Healthcare Project

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