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July 2, 2014

Area experts: Summer heat in parked cars can kill

With the sweltering heat of summer in full swing this week, children and pets are at greater risk for heatstroke as a result of being left in parked vehicles, several area officials said Tuesday.

“This time of year, we frequently get calls about children or pets left in hot parked vehicles,” said Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor. “The inside of a car can reach well over 100 degrees on a hot day.”

More than 43 children in the United States died from heatstroke in 2013 after being left in hot vehicles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Leaving windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. According to NOAA, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, quickly turning it into a death trap for children or animals.

“Heat is, in a lot of ways, just as dangerous as the cold,” Nayor said. “In the winter, we make sure we’re warm and covered up. People tend to think heat is more manageable and sometimes forget how deadly it can be.”

Calls reporting pets left in hot cars are more frequent in Oneonta than child-related calls, Nayor said. To investigate, police find the vehicle and look to see if either the child or pet seems distressed. Police also use a device that can measure the inside of a car’s temperature from the outside.

Over the years, Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin has received many calls involving subjects left in hot cars, but has fortunately never had a case where a child died, he said.

“It is certainly a concern with this heat,” Devlin said Tuesday.

Dr. Lisa Mooney, a Bassett Medical Center pediatrician in Oneonta, said children and pets are more sensitive to heat and, therefore, get over-heated easier and quicker.

Heatstroke, or hyperthermia, occurs when a subject’s body cannot cool itself down and core body temperature reaches dangerous levels, Mooney said.

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