Beat the Heat
Children, Pets & Hot Vehicles
By Hadeily Salazar, M.D., and Praveen Singh, M.D.
La Porte Physicians Playtime Pediatrics
Every spring and summer in the U.S., on average, 38 children and hundreds of pets die from overheating in hot cars. It’s called hyperthermia, or heat stroke, and it is a serious concern. Even the most caring parents with the best intentions have suffered loss after leaving their children in the car on a sunny day. Heat stroke can also occur when children become overheated from playing outside in the sun.
To prevent heat stroke or exhaustion in children, parents should not leave children in vehicles, even for a quick errand. It doesn’t take long for heat exhaustion or stroke to occur, especially if the children are already warm. Even a breezy day can be dangerous inside a car on in the sun.
“For both heat stroke and heat exhaustion, it is important to get the body cooled down. Putting ice packs on the groin, armpits and neck is helpful because blood flows close to the surface in those areas. Other ways the body can be cooled include a cool shower or being wrapped in a cool, wet blanket. If a victim is experiencing heat stroke symptoms, someone should call 911 or get the victim to a doctor immediately,” said Dr. Singh.
“It’s often easy to forget to help children stay hydrated when they are playing or riding in warm vehicles.Caregivers should always be sure children drink plenty of fluids when they are playing in warm conditions, and slather them with sunscreen frequently according to directions,” Dr. Salazar said.
Heat stroke warning signs needing immediate attention:
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Loss of consciousness
Heat exhaustion is similar, but also includes other symptoms like heavy sweating, cold or clammy skin, and rapid heartbeat.