June 24, 2021

Keep Your Child Safe in Cars During the Heat

It is getting hot here in Pennsylvania. Keep your child safe in vehicles this summer by following these tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project.

Staying Safe in the Heat

Children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children younger than four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness. When left in a hot vehicle, even with a window rolled down two inches, a young child’s body temperature may increase three to five times as fast as an adult. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.

The temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in as low as 10 minutes when the outside temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.


Warning signs of heatstroke include:

    • red, hot, and moist or dry skin,
    • no sweating, even though the child is warm,
    • strong rapid pulse or slow weak pulse,
    • throbbing headache,
    • dizziness,
    • nausea, and/or
    • confusion, or acting strangely.

If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately! Cool the child rapidly by spraying the child with cool water, but do not place the child in an ice bath.

Look Before You Lock

It is unsafe and bad practice to leave a child unattended in a car for any reason, even for a quick stop. In Pennsylvania, it is a summary offense. Accidentally leaving a child in a hot car is extremely dangerous. Take the following steps to ensure your child is not left in a vehicle:

    • Always check the back seat before you lock the vehicle and walk away.
    • Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving a vehicle. Put something you will need like your cell phone, handbag, or briefcase, etc., in the back seat to create a reminder to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
    • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the back.
    • Distractions and/or a change in routine increase the risk of forgetting a child in a back seat. If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine is altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
    • Have a strict policy in place with the child care provider about morning drop-off.
      • If your child will not be attending child care as scheduled, the parent’s responsibility is to call and inform the child care provider.
      • If the child does not show up as scheduled, and the child care provider did not receive a call, the child care provider pledges to contact the parent immediately to ensure the child’s safety.
    • Never leave a child alone in a car.
    • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
    • Never leave a child in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
    • Observe and Report: If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.

More Information

For heatstroke prevention information, visit the PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project website. For traffic injury prevention information, contact the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics at 1.800.CARBELT, 484.446.3008, or see their website and resource page.