WATCH ABOVE: New Jersey police had to smash a car window to get to a crying two-year-old who was trapped in a hot car while her mother shopped at Costco. Jannelle Burrell reports.
On a 27 C day, your car warms up to “dangerously hot” levels in as little as 10 minutes. A child’s body temperature climbs three to five times faster than an adult’s. And as the heat seeps in, their small bodies aren’t as capable in cooling down, experts say.
A two-year-old New Jersey girl has been rescued from her family’s hot van – the latest in a string of similar incidents this summer as the warm weather continues to beat down on North America.
Earlier this week, an Oklahoma mom was left in tears after she learned she left her one-year-old daughter inside of a hot car for over an hour.
About 38 children die of heat stroke each year after being left in a hot car, according to KidsAndCars.org, a children’s advocacy group. As of July 27 this year, the organization has counted 11 deaths in the United States.
Here’s what happens to a child’s body when they’re left in a hot car:
In just 10 minutes, the temperature in the car could jump by 8 C if it’s parked in the sun, even if air conditioning was on before you left the vehicle, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services says.
“Children are even more at risk for damages caused by extreme heat because their little bodies absorb heat more quickly and have trouble cooling off. Sweating won’t cool down an infant or young child in the same way that it does an adult,” according to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“A child may not be able to extract himself from a car seat or take off his or her clothes to help their body adjust,” it warned.
At the hour-mark, JEMS says temperatures could hit 60 C.
“Even a brief entrapment in a vehicle can expose a child to heat stroke (having a temperature above 40 C), but fatalities generally result from prolonged heat exposure,” the journal warns.
Heat stroke, when your body is grappling with an incredibly high core temperature, triggers neurological dysfunction, nausea, disorientation, delirium and seizures. Your heart rate climbs as your body works overtime in trying to cool off.
Hyperthermia sets in as it gives up on dissipating the heat and can no longer maintain a normal core body temperature, JEMS explains.
“Exposure to these conditions can cause a child to overheat, go into shock and sustain vital organ failure,” Raynald Marchand, of the Canada Safety Council, told Global News in 2014.
“In the confined space of a car, temperatures can climb so rapidly that they overwhelm a child’s ability to regulate his or her internal temperature. The body, especially a small body, can go into shock quickly, and circulation to vital organs can fail.”
READ MORE: How extreme heat affects the body
Dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities kick in – the latter sparks heart and breathing issues, such as cardiac arrhythmias and deep gasping if the extreme heat conditions are prolonged.
In Fatal Distraction, a gripping Pulitzer Prize winning feature, a Washington Post reporter documented the fallout: medical examiners describe “skin slippage,” discolouration and organs shutting down.
In a bid to build awareness about the dangers of leaving children inside a hot car, a North Carolina man tried to sit in a hot vehicle.
The 33-year-old father of three lasted 20 minutes.
“It was almost like someone was in the car choking me and I couldn’t breathe,” he said.
In another instance, emergency services providers simulated an identical incident: they sat in a car as it baked in the hot sun.
Within minutes, the experimenter was feeling uncomfortable. At the 15-minute mark, it was sweltering inside the car as she tried to stay still and control her breathing.
“It’s hard for me to keep calm right now knowing I can get out, and I just keep thinking about how a child would be reacting if they were strapped into a car seat or the door was locked,” Leslie Coleman, of the Lifeguard Ambulance Services in Florida, said.
By 20 minutes, she gave up. Her heart rate shot up from 100 beats per minute to 135.
– With files from Irene Ogrodnik and John Hadden