What could happen if you leave your child inside the car this summer? Even if it's just for 10 minutes, the consequences could be very serious. Staying inside a vehicle at around 25 degrees for that amount of time could result in heatstroke, which manifests in dizziness, vomiting, headaches and tachycardia. Fundación MAPFRE and the Spanish Association of Pediatrics have written a report about this problem, offering a series of recommendations.
A sunny day with a moderate outside temperate of just over 20 degrees could increase the inside temperature of a car to way over 40 degrees, putting the life of children at risk by leaving them for "just a minute" or because they go and play in cars on their own, which happens very often.
Jesús Monclús, Director of Road Safety and Prevention at Fundación MAPFRE, insists that "parents tend to think that this type of misfortune only happens to others, but the truth is that it could happen to anyone". We must take into account that "cracking open the windows barely reduces the inside temperature, which can easily reach 50 or 60 degrees". In fact, "certain interior coverings or items could reach temperatures above 80 degrees, which is enough to cause a contact burn".
According to the Asociación Profesional de Técnicos de Bomberos (APTB, or Professional Association of Firefighting Technicians), heatstrokes take the lives of many people every year. That's why if we see children or elderly people, which are the two most vulnerable groups, inside a vehicle and at risk of having a heatstroke, the first thing to do is advise the emergency services by calling 112. If necessary, it's also recommended to open the vehicle, but always in a safe manner, by breaking the front window, for example, that's furthest away from the child.
María Jesús Esparza, pediatrician and Secretary of the Child Injury Prevention Committee at the Spanish Association of Pediatrics advices that the main symptoms of heatstroke are fever or an increase in body temperature above 40 degrees, as well as weakness, dizziness, vomiting, intense headaches and tachycardia. Also, unlike with sunstroke, the skin is dry and very hot".
Most victims of hypothermia are under 5 year olds. According to Esparza, "this is mainly because their body temperature rises much faster than an adult and their respiratory system, which is still developing, also makes them more vulnerable to heat".
This is how a car exposed to sunlight changes:
WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF HEATSTROKE?
María Jesús Esparza says that "if the child is conscious, lay them on their back in a cool place, loosen their clothes and give them cold compresses and water". As soon as they're feeling better they must be taken to a medical center to be examined by a doctor.
If they are unconscious, "immediately call 061 or 112, and if they're not breathing, begin basic child CPR".
It's important to avoid directly submerging them in very cold water, since the fast drop in body temperature could be dangerous. Nor is it advisable to rub them with alcohol, as the alcohol could be absorbed by the child's skin and cause alcohol poisoning.
It's important to bear in mind that even if the victim feels better, they must be taken to a medical center to undergo a medical assessment.