Pediatric hot car deaths down significantly from last year

Experts say pandemic could be playing a role, but local health officials strongly encourage to never leave a child unattended

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – We all think of summer as a time of enjoying a burger fresh off the grill or cooling off in the water at the pool or the beach.

But sometimes hot days can end up in tragedy for young children left by themselves in a car.

This year, it’s leaving several people wondering if the pandemic is causing more children to die from heatstroke.

Thirty-nine children on average die from being left unattended in a hot car, according to the National Safety Council.

In 2018, 53 kids died after being left in a hot car, the most on record. 52 more died the following year.

“It is never, never, never safe to leave your child in a car,” Dr. Charlie Peters of Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska said.

However, the number of children dying from being in a hot car is significantly lower than in years past.

National experts say the pandemic could be playing a big role, because more people have been staying at home.

Seven kids have died from heatstroke in a car in 2020, according to the National Safety Council.

But Consumer Reports says restrictions at some stores may convince a parent to leave their child unattended in a car.

“Parents may be thinking if they are running in quick, and they don’t want their children exposed to the virus, maybe they’ll leave them in the vehicle,” Gundersen Health System injury prevention coordinator Megan Anderson said. “But especially in the summer when it’s really hot, you have to take them with you, or find someone that can stay home with them.”

Local health experts say temperatures in a car can skyrocket 20 degrees in just 10 minutes.

“Their (children’s) body temperature heats up 3-5 times faster than an adults,” Peters said.

“Organs can kind of slow down and stop if it’s too hot in a hot vehicle for too long,” Anderson said. “Vehicles can get really hot, really fast in the summer.”

Even though it appears less children are dying from heatstroke this year, it is still not okay to leave them unattended.

“No child should ever die this way,” Peters said.

Peters says temperatures can rise by over 50 degrees in just a half hour. He adds leaving your car window open a crack or the color of you car does not matter.

Also, be sure to always lock your car when a child is around you.