May 27 is National Heat Awareness Day. The unofficial holiday raises awareness about the dangers of heat-related ailments in advance of the scorching summer months ahead. Despite the high rate of heat-related deaths in children, some parents fail to heed warnings about the risks associated with leaving them unattended in parked vehicles. Likewise, pets often suffer when owners leave them behind inside of overheated vehicles.
Along with the elderly, young children are particularly sensitive to heat-related illnesses. KidsAndCars.org, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness about the dangers of leaving kids unattended in vehicles, found that 25 children perished in 2015 from heat-related factors after being left alone in a vehicle. Over the 25-year period from 1990-2015, 755 children died from a heat-related deaths inside of a car.
Pets are another group vulnerable to heatstroke. The Humane Society warns against leaving pets in hot cars during the summer months. Because pets regulate body heat differently than humans, this rule applies even if you’ve left your car air conditioner running at full blast. The epidemic of pets being left unattended in unmanned cars is so commonplace that states such as Florida have enacted laws protecting the rights of good Samaritans who break car windows to free distressed animals.
With heat waves across the country predicted for summer 2016, it’s important that car owners know the dangers of keeping their loved ones locked inside of a vehicle, even for short periods of time. The following are two major heat-related health risks that can occur when children and animals are left alone.
Even though you may need to leave your kids behind just for a second while you run inside the store, that “second” may be one too many. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says that dehydration is the number one cause of heat-related illness. When parents or caregivers leave children alone in vehicles for extended periods of time, they are often left without water or enough fluids to rehydrate effectively. Immediate headaches, dizziness, and even heatstroke can result from dehydration.
Your pets are not immune to the effects of dehydration. Dogs and cats, for instance, often drink from water bowls, which are not present in vehicles. For this reason, they are often left without fluids necessary to regulate their temperature. This, too, can result in heatstroke.
Heat exhaustion is a type of fatigue experienced by humans and animals alike when severely overheated. It can lead to vomiting, dizziness, and fainting. The effects are especially severe when a child is left unattended inside of a locked car. Should the child or pet pass out before unlocking the vehicle or indicating their need for help from passersby, they may succumb to heatstroke before help arrives. If the victim is an animal or an infant, they run the risk of death after being rendered unconscious by heat exposure.
In some cases, caretakers are unaware that children and pets have climbed into unattended vehicles. It’s important that you check the back seats and trunks of your vehicles during the summer months should a child or pet go missing for a period of time.
Make this summer safe for your family and furry friends by keeping them out of harm’s way.