Preventing Heat Stroke

Every year, more than 30 children die because they are alone in a car. In just 10 minutes, a car’s temperature can increase by 19 degrees – and it continues to rise. In June of 2011, the 500th child death occurred from heat stroke due to being left in a vehicle. From 1998-2011, there were 13 fatalities in Illinois due to a child left in a vehicle and suffering from hyperthermia (heat stroke).

If you see a child unattended in a hot vehicle, call 911.

Symptoms of Hyperthermia

Heat stroke occurs when a person's temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Disorientation
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Seizure
  • Hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations

A core body temperature of 107 is considered lethal; cells are damaged and internal organs shut down.

Additional Facts

More than 50% of the children who died from heat stroke were forgotten by caring adults who became distracted when they left the vehicle. Thirty percent of kids who died from hyperthermia were left unattended by an adult or gained entry into an unlocked vehicle and became trapped and overcome by heat.

Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the window slightly open. There is no evidence that cracking the windows helps prevent the temperature in vehicle interiors from reaching dangerous levels. In fact, sunlight coming through car windows makes the car work like an oven

Even if the child does not die after being left in the vehicle, serious injury can occur due to the high temperature. This includes life-changing injuries such as becoming ventilator-dependent or having permanent brain damage.

According to John Formisano, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, “There are 250,000 confirmed cases of children trapped in vehicles. And this count does not include the thousands of children rescued by fire and police departments. We conservatively estimate there are thousands of near-misses every month.”