Experts Warn Against Leaving Kids and Pets in Hot Cars

  • 7/9/2019 5:05:21 PM
  • Ingrid Schmidt
  • Local News

MANSFIELD, OH- During these hot summer months it is important to stay hydrated and cool in order to avoid heatstroke. 

What can be especially dangerous is leaving your children or pets locked in a hot car.  According to Reed Richmond, Health Education Specialist at Richland Public Health, children are especially susceptible to heat stroke.

"In children, their thermoregulatory system is not as efficient as an adult," Richmond said.  "Their body temperatures warm at a rate 3-5 times faster than an adult's. That's why the heat really affects a child."

Richmond said that since children do not sweat the same way that adults do, their bodies struggle to release heat.

"Basically if you're sitting in a car, the temperature, even on a day when it's a mild temperature... if the child is left in a car, within 20-60 minutes the temperatures inside that car could become lethal for a child," Richmond said.

Leaving your windows open a crack is not enough to protect your child or pet even if you are simply running into the supermarket to grab a few essentials.  Even on a 70 degree day, the temperature inside your vehicle can climb up to 104 degrees in only 30 minutes. On a 90 degree day, over a span of 30 minutes, the temperature can rise to 124 degrees.

Veterinarian and Owner of Mansfield Veterinary Hospital, Laurie Hickox, said that pets are much happier being left at home on hot days.

"I recommend, if it's above 70 degrees, don't leave your dog in a locked car," Hickox said. 

Hickox also recommends keeping your pets inside the air conditioning for most of the day.  Walking pets on hot pavement can burn their feet, and being left outside in the heat for too long can cause heat stroke.

"Heat stroke at the beginning stages, they just start heavy panting, and at the end stages it is death," Hickox said.  "You'll have them just collapse, heavy panting to the point where you've never seen a dog breathe like that."

While most parents know to never leave their pet, or especially their child, locked in a hot car, many of the incidents involving a child dying of heat stroke in a vehicle are due to a miscommunication between parents or a break in the normal childcare routine.

"You have a child in the back seat, that child has gone to sleep, and you don't remember the child is in the back seat.  Say it was your turn to take the child to daycare and it's not part of your normal routine, and you're thinking about a report you have to give to the boss and you simply forget that you were supposed to stop at the daycare center.  That's how it happens," Richmond said.

Many parents think that it couldn't happen to them, but if driving the child is out of their normal routine, it can be difficult to remember they are back there.

Richmond recommends that you leave a valuable item in the back seat of your car such as your wallet, phone, purse, or even your left shoe, since you don't need it for driving.  That way you will be forced to open the back seat of your vehicle and see the child.

If you see a dog or a child in a locked car that looks close to death it is legal in Ohio to break the window in order to save them.

For more information on heat stroke and the dangers of leaving a child or pet in a locked car, visit Richland Public Health.


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