Dangerous heat in cars can be lethal to people and pets

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Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) Storm Center | By Leslie Hudson

It seems like a no-brainer, don’t leave anyone or any pet in your car. But so far this year, 18 children have died nationwide after being found in a hot car. And hundreds of pets die each year from heat stroke because they are left in a car by their owners. While most of us know the dangers of a hot car, the National Weather Service warns that this time of year, all of us need a reminder.

The temperature inside of a car can reach critical levels putting people and your pet at risk of serious illness or death in less than 10 minutes, even on a day that doesn’t seem that hot to you. And even in the winter months too. Children can either be left accidentally in the car, or may find their way into one while playing and find themselves unable to get out. With the hot and humid weather expected, vehicle temperatures can reach lethal levels in a very short time.

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Small children can’t remove their own clothing, tell people they’re too warm, or get out by themselves. Dogs can’t sweat to cool down, and their body temperature can rise to dangerous levels even if the windows are cracked. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that can lead to brain damage or death if not treated immediately. In 2023, 29 children died from heatstroke in cars.

Let’s talk about dogs. All dogs begin to experience heat stress when the air temperature exceeds 85 F. On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside of your car can climb to 90 F in just 10 minutes. At just 6 minutes, your dog can already start to exhibit signs of heat exhaustion. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the temperature inside your car can rise almost 20 F in just 10 minutes, and almost 30 F in 20 minutes.

In about an hour, the temperature inside your car can exceed the temperature outside by 40 F. So, even on a comfortable 70-degree day with your car parked in the shade, the temperature inside can top 110 F in just 60 minutes!

Let’s say you have to make a stop at the store and you’ll be gone for just 20 minutes on an 80 F day. In that 20 minutes the temperature inside your vehicle has climbed to 109 F. On a 90 F day, just 10 minutes equals that same 109 F.

  • Here are some tips to keep people and pets safe in hot cars:
  • Never leave children or pets unattended
  • Check the entire vehicle: Before locking the doors, make sure everyone is out of the car, especially in the back seat
  • Put something you need in the back seat: This will encourage you to open the back door when you arrive
  • Use a car with sensors: Some cars have apps that can alert you if someone is in the back seat

A good rule of thumb? When it’s 70 F and over, don’t take Rover. And always look before you lock! That way all pets and people can be safe.

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