The risk of heatstroke in cars — a potentially fatal condition that impacts thousands of children annually — increases as the seasons change and temperatures rise. According to, since 1998, pediatric vehicular heatstroke (PVH) has claimed the lives of 969 children who were riding in overheated vehicles. Even though many caregivers are aware of the dangers of leaving children in hot cars, heatstroke remains a silent killer that often goes unnoticed. Here’s some helpful information and tips for preventing heatstroke in cars.

Hard facts about heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises to dangerous levels, affecting the body’s ability to regulate heat. This is even worse in children, whose bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults, making the risk of heatstroke in children especially high. Leaving your child in the car can be dangerous, even in cool weather. Why is this important? Temperatures in a car can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. If children are left in a car, their body temperature can rise to deadly levels within minutes, leading to irreversible damage or even death.

Recognizing the signs of heatstroke

Recognizing the signs of heatstroke and providing a quick intervention can save a child’s life. Symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness

Parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for signs of heatstroke in children, especially in the summer. If you think your child may be suffering from heatstroke, seek emergency medical help immediately.

Top tips for preventing heatstroke

It takes awareness and preventative actions to keep kids from getting heatstroke. Some key prevention strategies include:

  • Never leaving a child unattended in a car, even for a few minutes.
  • Creating reminders, such as placing something you need for the day in the backseat with your child. Navigation apps can remind you to check on your passengers post drive. Newer cars even have backseat occupant detection.
  • Always keeping vehicles locked to prevent children from accessing them unsupervised.
  • Teaching children not to play in or around parked cars.

Vehicular heatstroke is an avoidable incident that kills far too many children every year. By raising awareness, we can work together to prevent these deaths and ensure that every child remains safe, even on the hottest days of the year.


Safe Kids Worldwide Safe Kids District of Columbia is a nonprofit organization working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries.

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