WEATHER BLOG: Kids and hot weather dangers

By Juli Marquez, Bay News 9 Meteorologist
Last Updated: Friday, July 28, 2017, 3:33 PM EDT

We expect it to be hot and humid in July but this week’s weather has been even hotter than normal.

Without much rain this week, temperatures have soared into the low to mid 90s each day. These temperatures, combined with the high humidity, have produced heat indices in the 100 to 105 degree range each afternoon. Overnight temperatures have only dropped into the mid 70s to low 80s so there has been no relief from the muggy conditions at night.

  • Florida second to Texas in number of heatstroke deaths involving children and cars
  • 'Look Before You Lock' campaign educating parents
  • Link: Heat safety resources

This type of weather can lead to heat illnesses which can be dangerous and even deadly.

Today we learned that an 8-month-old boy died in his home due to the heat. His 2-year-old sister has been hospitalized due to dehydration. There was no air conditioning in the mobile home and the temperature inside the bedroom was 109 degrees at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon. That was even hotter than the outside air temperature! At 1 p.m. Thursday, Clearwater was 93 degrees.  St. Petersburg and Tampa were 90 degrees at that time.

This is why air conditioning is so important.  Confined or poorly ventilated spaces in this hot Florida weather can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, when it comes to heatstroke and children, we hear about this more often when it involves cars.

Florida is second only to Texas in the number of heatstroke deaths involving children in vehicles from 1998 to 2016. This year, four children in Florida have died of heatstroke in cars, including one in Tampa Bay. All of the children were under three years of age. This doesn’t happen only in the summer. Two of the Florida children died in February this year.

 

What is heatstroke? When your body’s temperature rises to 104 degrees or higher, it’s overheated and stops functioning properly. The internal organs begin to shut down and can lead to unconsciousness and even death. While adults and pets are at risk, children’s bodies are not as efficient as adults in regulating internal temperature and they are especially vulnerable to hyperthermia. According to Jan Null, CCM, with San Jose State University, 26 children left in cars have died of heatstroke in the U.S. this year (more than 700 children left in cars have died of heatstroke in the U.S. since 1998.)  

So why is a car so dangerous? The sun can heat a car very quickly with the windows rolled up.  The sun's shortwave radiation heats objects that it strikes.  So the dashboard, car seat, and other objects get very hot and also heat up the air inside the car. The heat is trapped and the inside of a car gets hotter than the outside air. This can happen very quickly!

Within 10 minutes, the temperature inside of a car can climb almost 20 degrees. In about 30 minutes, the temperature inside the car can rise almost 35 degrees.  Cracking the windows doesn’t help much but it is a factor in the car’s air and surface temperature. Other factors include time of day, if the car is sitting in direct sunlight, and how long it’s been parked.  However, cars can get dangerously hot even when the outside temperature is in the 70s. This can happen on days with or without clouds. It can happen anywhere. It can happen in any season.

The campaign "Look Before you Lock" is educating parents and care givers about this danger. While children should never be left alone in a car, they are sometimes forgotten. Placing your purse or briefcase or cell phone in your back seat will force you to look in the back seat to get that object before you leave the car. Keeping a child’s favorite toy or a stuffed animal in the front seat can be a visual reminder for you to check the back seat. Make sure your childcare provider or child’s school calls you if your child doesn’t show up that day. Finally, if you see any child left alone in a car, call 911.

Make "look before you leave" a routine whenever you get out of the car.  And check on your family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are staying cool in this Florida heat.