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Not Even for a Minute! Don’t Leave Kids Alone in a Car

Children should never be alone in a car—not for a minute or even a second. Ignoring that rule can lead quickly to tragic results, especially in the summer heat.

Cars can heat up almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, even with a window cracked. A child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s. A rapid rise of heat can lead to heatstroke, brain damage and death in children.

In the past 20 years, more than 700 children have died in the U.S., most under the age of 3, from heatstroke in a car. In most cases, children are sleeping in their car seat and parents have forgotten they are in the car. Every car-related heatstroke death can be avoided.

Find out more information about keeping kids safe from heat-related illness in cars.

Greater Risk for Children

Why is the risk for heatstroke higher in children than in adults?

  • Their small bodies absorb heat more quickly.
  • Their perspiration doesn’t cool them as well.
  • They can’t change their environment by removing clothes or getting out of the vehicle.

Tips to Prevent Heatstroke in Cars

At 104 degrees, heatstroke begins in a child’s body. Safety organizations remind parents and caregivers to always ACT:

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car.
  • Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child, such as a briefcase, purse or cell phone, that you need at your final destination.
  • Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.

Watch this video to learn more about steps you can take to avoid a possible tragedy.

Protecting Kids From Extreme Heat

When heat index reaches 90 degrees or higher, it means a potential health risk for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides steps you can take to help protect your child from heat-related illness:

Find an air-conditioned space. If your home does not have air conditioning, find a nearby building that does.

Stay hydrated. Make sure your children drink water regularly. Have it ready before they even ask for it.

Dress lightly. Dress your children in loose, light-colored and lightweight clothing.

Plan for extra rest time. Heat can often make children feel tired.

Cool off. When your child is feeling hot, give them a cool bath or water mist to cool down. Swimming is another great way to cool off.

Prevent the effects of sun exposure. Get more information on protecting your children from the sun.

Ask about policies. Talk to your child's caregiver, camp, coach or child care provider about their policies for protecting your children throughout the day.

Be Alert for Warning Signs

Get your child out of the heat as quickly as possible if they show signs of sickness or not acting normally. Here are some warning signs of heatstroke:

  • Red, hot and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating
  • A strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • A throbbing headache
  • Strange behavior

If you notice these signs, cool the child rapidly by spraying them with cool water or a garden hose. But NEVER use an ice bath.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Call your pediatrician or family doctor if your child develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling faint
  • Extreme tiredness (i.e., unusually sleepy, drowsy or hard to arouse)
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Intense thirst
  • Not urinating for many hours
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal
  • Skin numbness or tingling
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms

And remember: Heatstroke can happen even when it’s not hot outside.

Additional Resources

Learn more about preventing car-related heatstroke.

Get more information about preventing heatstroke.

Learn more about heat sickness from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Find out about the signs of dehydration in infants and children.

Child Care Complaint Hotline: Anyone who witnesses or has a concern regarding a licensed child care facility, including transportation-related child care issues, is urged to call 800-462-8261—a number that is posted on all licensed childcare vehicles and facilities.

Get information on Tennessee Department of Health services and programs.