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June 26, 2019


Temperatures Rise Quickly, Even on Cooler Summer Days

June 26, 2019


Temperatures Rise Quickly, Even on Cooler Summer Days 

KIMBERLY, Wis. — Few things can be more heartbreaking: A child left strapped in the backseat of a car on a hot summer day; a distraught or tired parent realizing his or her tragic mistake too late. 

National Safety Council statistics show that between 1998 and 2018, almost 800 children have died from vehicular heatstroke. In 2018, 52 children died in hot cars nationwide. About half of the deaths occur when children had been forgotten by a caregiver.

“It’s happened when there’s been a change in routine,” said Dr. Rebecca Doro, a family practice physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Kimberly. “One parent might normally drop a child off, but the other takes them that day, or they go to a different place, or are carrying other heavy items inside.”

Parents can help avoid tragedy by ingraining a habit of checking the backseat every time they lock their car, Dr. Doro said. Some newer model vehicles come equipped with rear seat reminders. Parents also can create their own safeguards such as keeping a stuffed animal in the car seat and moving it to the front whenever the child is in the car, or leaving a phone or wallet in the backseat.

“Obviously, your child should be more important than those things,” Dr. Doro explained. “They are things you commonly reach for and might help you realize right away what happened.”

Additionally, parents should arrange with daycare providers to call anytime a child doesn’t arrive when expected, she said.

About 30 percent of hot car deaths occurred when children gained access to the vehicle on their own, so it’s also important for people to ensure they keep vehicles locked and to ensure keys are not accessible to kids, Dr. Doro said.

The remaining 20 percent of deaths occurred when children had been knowingly left by a caregiver. Even if parents are running a quick errand, they need to know it’s never safe to leave a young child in the car.

“Temperatures can rise rapidly,” Dr. Doro said. “Even if the outdoor temperature is in the 60s, it can reach 110 degrees inside the car. Temperatures can rise 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes, and 43 degrees within an hour. Cracking the window does not stop that.”

Children are at higher risk for vehicular heat stroke because their body temperature increases at a rate three to five times that of adults. They have a higher metabolic rate and they sweat at a slower rate than adults, so they’re less able to manage the heat, Dr. Doro said.

If people encounter a child suffering from vehicular heat stroke, they should first call 911 and then get the child to a cooler area, such as into shade or an air-conditioned building, Dr. Doro said. Spraying cool water, fanning them or applying ice packs to the neck, armpits and groin area can help, as well as putting the child in a cool bath.

In 2016, Wisconsin became one of several states that allow people to rescue children and pets in hot cars. This is known as the “Good Samaritan” law. The law states that 911, law enforcement, emergency medical services or animal control should be called first, and then the person can take action.  

“No one ever wants to see a child hurt because they are accidentally left in a hot car,” said Dr. Doro. “It’s imperative that caregivers take necessary steps to ensure safety at all times.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.