Children + Cars: The Dangers of Hyperthermia

The end of what has been a crazy-hot summer is in sight! Okay, maybe it’s a little further off for some of us than others — either way there’s still quite a few hot days to come before the cool breezes of fall.

And if you’ve got kids, you’ve been carting them around in the car all summer. While no one likes to talk or even think about the dangers of leaving a young child in a hot car, I’d like to share some tips and reminders so that we all make it safely through the remaining warm days.

SafeKids.com approached me with the following information, so I gladly offered to pass it along to my readers. Please read, share and stay safe!

To help keep your kids safe this summer, Safe Kids Worldwide and the GM Foundation have compiled a few tips on how to reduce your child’s risk of hyperthermia.

Remember to ACT:

  • Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked so children can’t get into cars on their own.
  • Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car – a briefcase, your purse, or better yet, your cell phone – that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • Take action. This is something we can all do. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel are trained to respond to these situations.

For more information on preventing child heatstroke deaths, visit safekids.org/heatstroke.


  • Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Young children are particularly at risk as their body heats up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s.
  • And when a child’s internal temperature gets to 104 degrees, major organs begin to shut down. And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, the child dies. Because of this, and because cars heat up so quickly – 20 degrees in 10 minutes — it can happen faster than you think.
  • Safe Kids supports NHTSA’s hyperthermia education campaign and the increased national coordination on the issue. In addition, with the support of the GM Foundation, Safe Kids and its network of 600 coalitions and chapters across the nation are helping to educate parents and caregivers through its hyperthermia awareness campaign, Never Leave Your Child Alone In a Car.
  • These types of tragedies can happen to anyone and most of the cases are to the most loving, caring parents you will ever meet.

Key Stats:

  • Since 1998, more than 530 children across the United States have died from hyperthermia when unattended in a vehicle.
    • 52% – child “forgotten” by caregiver
    • 30% – child playing in unattended vehicle
    • 17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult
  • In 2010, 49 children died from heatstroke. In 2011, one of the hottest years on record, we lost 33 children. So far in 2012, 13 children have died.
  • Heatstroke deaths have been recorded in 11 months of the year in nearly all 50 states.
  • There are a staggering number of near-misses – children who were rescued before a fatality. Palm Beach County reported more than 500 near misses in one year alone. And if that many are happening in one county, can you imagine the number happening across the country?

About Safe Kids Worldwide
Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to providing parents and caregivers with practical and proven resources to protect kids from unintentional injuries, the number one cause of death to children in the United States. Throughout the world, almost one million children die of an injury each year, and every one of these tragedies is preventable. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 600 coalitions in the U.S. and in 23 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Since 1988, Safe Kids has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 53 percent. Join our effort at safekids.org.

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