Heat stroke happens within minutes

Brought to you by our Director of Training, Scott Marshall and The Safe Driver.

Like most people, we complain about the cold and we complain about the heat. It seems like we’re never happy. As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer the heat over the cold. But when is the temperature too hot to handle? I can answer my own question – when you leave your child or pet in a locked vehicle with a window cracked for even a few minutes. I know, because I just experienced it.

I decided to find out exactly what it would be like if I sat in a vehicle on a hot day. When I began, the interior temperature was comfortable. This was after the AC was on to keep the interior cool while driving. Approximately 1 minute after turning the engine off, the interior temperature was checked and read 25.4 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty warm for any summer day, but still comfortable. I then waited for 5 minutes and checked the temperature once again. It read 31.7 degrees Celsius, which is 89 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s such a quick increase in such a short period of time. I knew the temperature would increase, but was a little surprised it moved up that quickly.

Can you imagine how your child or pet feels now after just being in that parked vehicle for only 5 minutes? I felt the stuffy, hot temperature immediately and began sweating… a lot. Some may think how the sweat may help cool down my body. It did, but not enough for my liking. The windows were cracked open to let a breeze into the vehicle. Wait, what breeze? There was nothing resembling a breeze coming through that crack, yet parents of children and owners of pets say and do the same thing. I wasn’t done yet.

After another 5 minutes, to a total of 10 minutes from the start of my experiment, the interior temperature read 42.1 degrees Celsius, which is approximately 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, you read that correctly. After 10 minutes, it was so hot in the vehicle I was beginning to have a difficult time breathing. There wasn’t enough cool air to breathe comfortably. But yet again, people leave their kids and pets in these conditions. The standard line to the kids is “I’ll only be a minute” in turn is really much longer than what they promised. This can now seriously affect your child and pet.

A child’s body temperature will rise up 5 times faster than that of an adult’s body temperature. As the vehicle interior gets hotter, their tiny bodies aren’t as capable in cooling it down compared to that of an adult’s body. For this reason, they are very susceptible to heat stroke.  Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature increases very quickly and can often be combined with dehydration.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency which can be fatal if not treated immediately. Severe hyperthermia is defined when someone’s body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, which is 104 Fahrenheit. After 10 minutes, the interior of my vehicle went to 42.1 Celsius. Can you imagine being in that vehicle for 20 minutes or more? Heat stroke can trigger neurological dysfunction, nausea, disorientation and possibly seizures. The heart rate will tend to climb as the body works overtime to try to cool off. That’s when hyperthermia sets in. The body gives up on dispersing the heat and can no longer maintain a normal temperature in the body.

It was hot inside my vehicle, but I wasn’t done yet. I waited for another five minutes for a total of 15 minutes from the start on my experiment. The interior temperature reached a high of 50 degrees Celsius, which is 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature increased by almost 25 degrees Celsius and 44 degrees Fahrenheit in only 15 minutes. Does it surprise you when you read or hear how children or family pets have died when they have been left in the vehicle for just a short period of time? It shouldn’t surprise you now.