Leaving Children and Pets in Hot Cars: Why it’s Not Worth the Risk

Temperatures are rising and so is the importance of knowing how to stay safe in the summer heat. As an insurance company, we want to protect our communities. Leaving children and pets in hot cars is a longstanding issue throughout the warmer seasons (even spring!), and it’s very important to address. This may seem like an obvious error to some, but not everyone understands the imminent dangers of this act. In today’s blog post, we’re going to explain why doing this can be fatal and what to do if you witness it as a passerby.

Why is this fatal?

Not many people realize how rapidly a car’s temperature can spike within minutes, and we can’t always guarantee our errands will be as quick as we intend them to be. What’s meant to take a few minutes may take ten— and this is when temperatures begin to reach fatal levels. If it’s 70 degrees outside, the inside of your car can reach 90 degrees in less than ten minutes. Furthermore, if it’s a 90 degree day, your car can reach up to 110 degrees! As time goes on, the internal temperature of your car will continue to rise. No errand is worth leaving your loved ones in these conditions.

Even leaving a window cracked or the car running with the air conditioner on poses a risk. Although it may seem like a solution, the ventilation of a cracked window is insignificant and your vehicle can still reach dangerous temperatures. Proper air circulation is compromised in this situation and the small bodies of children and pets simply cannot endure this kind of heat for long. If you’re relying on the air conditioner, it’s possible for your engine to stall while you’re away, disabling the AC. This may seem unlikely, but several variables can affect your vehicle and it’s just not a risk worth taking.

Prolonged exposure to these conditions can cause children and pets to experience heat stress or worse—heatstroke, which can lead to death. Symptoms of heatstroke in children include a throbbing headache, dizziness, shift in cognitive behavior, the chills, dry skin with no sweating, deep red or purple tongue, and an overall increase in body temperature which can damage internal organs. For pets, symptoms include excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, vomiting, and seizures. Heatstroke is a serious medical emergency.

What should I do if I see this?

If you see this, it’s extremely important that you call 911 and stay alongside the vehicle until help arrives. Although there are legalities against leaving children and pets in cars unattended, these consequences are nowhere near as devastating as a potential fatality. To play an important role in your community, remain aware of your surroundings in public places and stay on the lookout for these compromising situations, especially in large mall parking lots. As a parent and pet owner, do NOT leave your children or pets alone in your car—it’s just not worth it.

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