Emily Rice Published

Health Officials Advise Vigilance Against Heat Stroke

A young girl is seen drinking from a pink water bottle on a hot summer day.Getty Images/Erica Shires

Exposure to extreme heat, even for a short amount of time could be the reason for a deadly heat stroke in children, the elderly and pets.

Dr. Steven Eshenaur, Kanawha Charleston health officer, urges drivers to be mindful of who is in their backseat during extreme summer temperatures.

“Check your back,” Eshenaur said. “Make sure you don’t leave a child or pet in your car, especially this time of year, they can quickly overheat and we don’t want to see any unnecessary deaths.”

Eshenaur also said dangerous heat and humidity combinations could be fatal, even with the windows cracked, vehicles heat up quickly. 

“When the air isn’t moving much, even leaving windows cracked or open, a vehicle can heat up to dangerous levels quickly. Sometimes, it might seem cool enough to us to not be concerned about the inside temperature of a car, but I wouldn’t trust your personal thermostat when it comes to the safety of others on hot summer days. Heat stroke can come on more quickly than you might think,” Eshenaur said. “The temperature inside a vehicle will reach 100 degrees in 25 minutes when the outside temperature is only 73 degrees.”

When a car heats up and the human body reaches a core temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, heatstroke can occur, causing toxins to flood the body, leading to cell death. 

According to the National Safety Council, 10 deaths have been attributed to vehicular heatstroke in the U.S. so far in 2023.

On average, 38 children under the age of 15 die this way every year. In 2018 and 2019, a record number of 53 children died after being left in a hot vehicle.

Other precautions to take during hot summer weather:

  • Dress children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Keep kids and pets hydrated. Sugar and caffeine counter that effect.
  • Find a reminder to check your back seat that works for you. You could keep your purse, wallet, briefcase and phone in the back with the child or pet to help you remember to check back there when in a hurry.