SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) — When the summer heat is on, heat related illnesses become more likely. This is especially true with unattended children who may be left in hot cars, leading to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.

Even during typical outdoor activities, a person’s body can have trouble cooling off efficiently.  The natural cooling system the body uses works though perspiration. Heat in the body is released when the body perspires, and the moisture evaporates. With high humidity, it is hard for evaporation to occur. That means the heat stays with you longer and depending on how hot conditions are and how humid the air is could be dangerous. 

When the body overheats from overexposure to the heat, the first thing that may happen is heat exhaustion. The symptoms for heat exhaustion include dizziness or fainting, heavy sweating, a rapid weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, and muscle cramps. If any of these symptoms begin to set in, it is important to get to a cool location and hydrate. 

If heat exhaustion begins to set in and precautions are not taken, the next step is the body going into heat stroke. This condition is much more serious for the body. Heat stroke symptoms include a body temperature greater than 103°F, a throbbing headache, no sweating, red & dry sky, a strong rapid pulse, and the loss of conscious. If any of these symptoms begin to set in, call 911 immediately and seek medical attention.   

Car Related Heat Issues 

On sunny days, it takes very little time for car interiors to heat up and reach dangerous or deadly temperatures. It can happen within minutes. 

38 people on average every year, mainly children under the age of 15, die from heat stroke because of being left in hot vehicles. Most of the deaths happen as a result of children being forgotten in the back seat of the vehicle. 

Heat stroke in parked vehicles that are not running becomes a major issue since there is no way for the body to cool off on its own. 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 883 children have died in hot cars since 1998

When the outside air temperature is 85°F, within 10 minutes the inside temperature can rise to 104°F. Within 30 minutes, the temperature can rise to 119°F. After an hour the inside of the vehicle can be as hot as 128°F when it is just 85°F outside. 

Car interior temperatures over time at 85°F

The hotter the outside air temperature is, the faster the inside temperature rises. When the temperatures outside of a vehicle is 95°F, after just 10 minutes the inside temperature rises to at least 114°F. After an hour, the inside can be as hot as 138°F.  

Car interior temperature over time at 95°F

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has several recommendations to help reduce the chances of vehicle heat related deaths.  

1.) “Park, Look, Lock” 

  • Do not lock your car before looking in the back seat.
  • To remind you to always look, you can put your phone or something else very important that you need with your child, so you remember to look. 
  • Lock the car once everyone is out.

2.) When you are not using your vehicle, always keep it locked. 

  • About 26% percent hot vehicle related deaths happen from children gaining access to unlocked cars and becoming trapped.

3.) Never leave a child alone in a vehicle.

  • Even leaving a child alone with the air conditioning running can be dangerous.
  • If the car stops, children’s bodies heat up three times faster than adults in hot conditions.   

4.) How to react when a child is found alone in a car

  • Check that they are okay and are responding. If they are not, call 911 immediately.  
  • If they are ok and responding, quickly work to try locating the parents. Call 911 and work to get into the vehicle to cool the child down.  

The NHTSA says that if you must, break a window to let hot air out to help the child cool off. They also say that most states, including Georgia & South Carolina, have ‘good Samaritan’ laws to protect people who step in during an emergency such as this. You will not be held responsible for the damage to a vehicle in a case like this.

Comparison of car interior temperatures over time between 75° and 95° outside temperature