The Problem

What is vehicular heatstroke?

Vehicular heatstroke occurs when a child dies due to being left – intentionally or unintentionally – in a hot car. A child's body can overheat three to five times faster than an adult's body, making them highly susceptible to the condition.

Within 20 minutes of being parked in the sun, a car heats almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit (F) more than the outside air temperature. Within one hour, the temperature inside the car will be about 45 degrees F hotter than the outside temperature.


Once a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees, the major organs begin to shut down. Heatstroke is usually fatal once the child’s temperature has reached 107 degrees.


54% of children in the United States who die in hot cars were unknowingly left there by a caregiver


20% of children who die of vehicular heatstroke in the U.S. are knowingly left in the car by their caregiver


30% of children who die of vehicular heatstroke in the U.S. had climbed into the car on their own and could not get out

The Causes

What causes vehicular heatstroke?

Vehicular heatstroke due to entrapment

Children might get into a car to play, to retrieve a forgotten toy, or for any other reason without their caregiver’s knowledge. A child who is unable to get out is at risk of vehicular heatstroke. Nearly 3 in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle. Be sure to keep your vehicle locked and your keys out of reach of children.

Vehicular heatstroke due to a parent or caregiver leaving the child unknowingly in the car

The majority of children who die of vehicular heatstroke were unintentionally left in a vehicle by their caregiver. Most often, when children are unknowingly left, their caregiver reports a routine change, false memory, and/or stress that led them to think that they had dropped their child off when they, in fact, had not.

Fortunately, you can develop a simple habit to prevent this tragedy from happening to you

Who is at risk of unknowingly leaving their child in the car? Learn more about risk factors.

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