Preventing Child Heatstroke Deaths

Heatstroke He's a Killer Poster NHTSA where's babyIt’s Up to Us All

In an earlier post , I addressed the common and dangerous misconception that children lost to heatstroke in hot cars are being left behind intentionally. We know that these incidents most often occur when a child is mistakenly left alone in a vehicle or gains access to a vehicle when a parent isn’t around, which tragically occurred in Texas recently. It can happen to loving, caring parents who, in a moment of forgetfulness, are visited by tragedy.

When a child is left alone in a vehicle and is most likely there by accident then no one should ever hesitate to act to protect them from heatstroke. Do not think twice. In 10 minutes, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise over 20 degrees. Even on a mild day when the temperature is as low as 60 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 110 degrees.

If a child’s body temperature reaches 107 degrees, that child will die.


If you see a child alone in a car, act. Act quickly. Act to save that child’s life. Make it your business. Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection for those who offer assistance in an emergency. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return.
  • If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately:
    • Call 911
    • Get the child out of the car
    • Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath)
  • If the child is responsive:
    • Stay with the child until help arrives
    • Have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.


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It is normal to feel hesitant about getting involved, particularly when it involves another person’s child. But when you know that a heatstroke tragedy can happen to any family—even yours—then the right choice is to take action to save a life. Already this year, sixteen children have lost their lives, adding to the total of 676 heatstroke deaths since 1998.

While NHTSA continues to investigate technologies that could alert a driver that a child is being left alone in a vehicle, it is everyone’s responsibility to take action to protect kids. Be the reason that a child lives.

For more resources, visit:

By Mark Rosekind, Ph.D.

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