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Keep It Cool! Understanding Heat-Related Hazards for Children and the Elderly


National records show that in 2023 there were a total of 29 tragic circumstances in which a child died in a hot-car related incident. As of June 25 of this year, there have been five deaths attributed to this cause. These incidents serve as a reminder of the risks the summer heat poses, particularly to young children.


National campaigns like NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE remind parents and caregivers about the dangers of leaving children unattended in or near vehicles. Every hot car death is preventable. Remembering these tips can help:


  • Look Before You Lock: Make the habit of checking the backseat every time you exit the vehicle to ensure no child is left behind.
  • Secure Your Car: Always lock your vehicle and keep keys out of children’s reach. A car is not a playground.
  • Act immediately: If you see a child alone in a car, don’t hesitate. Call 9-1-1 immediately and take action to remove the child from the vehicle.


Understanding why children are at a greater risk in the heat


Children are likelier to experience heat-related illness for a couple of reasons. One significant difference is that they have less body surface area and blood volume, compared to adults, which reduces their ability to cool off through sweat and evaporation. Their smaller blood volume makes it harder for them to regulate body temperature. This means that in hot conditions, such as a rapidly warming car, children’s core temperatures can rise three to five times faster than an adult’s. Also their thermoregulatory system is not fully developed compared to adults.


For children, the consequences of overheating can quickly turn lethal. Heatstroke, a serious condition that occurs when the body temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit and the body heat-regulating capabilities are overwhelmed, can happen rapidly. At 107 degrees Fahrenheit, cellular damage occurs, and vital organs begin to fail, a cascade that can lead to death if not immediately addressed. 


Ensuring Safety for Older Adults in High-Temperatures


Harvard Medicine, Harvard Medical School’s magazine says that it can be difficult even for healthy older adults to determine when it’s too hot or if they’re dehydrated. This difficulty can be further exacerbated by cognitive decline. Also, older bodies retain more heat than younger ones when the temperature rises, as glands release less sweat and the heart doesn’t circulate blood as effectively. The publication goes on to say that various bodily systems, from the cardiovascular to the immune system, struggle to compensate for these changes.

Find tips and more information about how to stay safe and healthy here.


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