Summer has officially arrived and with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, now is the right time to bring attention to the dangers of leaving children and pets in parked cars for even a short amount of time.
So far across the nation this year, 13 children have died as a result of heatstroke suffered in vehicles. While no incidents have been reported in Rockdale, authorities urge the public to be watchful of potential dangers and report any sightings of children and pets left in parked vehicles.
Research shows that heatstroke can occur even when the temperature is a mild 70 degrees, making it extremely dangerous to leave children and pets inside cars under any circumstances.
“The biggest thing to remember is how hot it can get inside a vehicle during the summer,” Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said this week. “Heatstroke claims the lives of children and pets left in vehicles every year, and no one should have to go through that tragedy.
“Everyone needs to be more cautious about not leaving children or pets inside a hot vehicle for any amount of time during the hot summer months.”
“All the cool of the spring time is over and we are into days that heat up rapidly,” Rockdale Fire Chief Dan Morgan said.
“People should know that the inside of a car, even if the windows are cracked, can reach well over 100 degrees and body temperature rises rapidly if there is no cool air or water available.”
Heat is very difficult to combat once it reaches a certain level and smaller body mass is more affected since there is less mass to heat up.
For children, heatstroke can occur when body temperature passes 104 degrees Fahrenheit and overwhelms the body’s ability to control temperature, according to Web MD. Overheating causes symptoms such as dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness and even death.
Dogs also face a high risk of heatstroke because by design their bodies conserve heat. If left in a parked car with only hot air to breathe, brain and organ damage can occur after just 15 minutes, according to an article published by TripsWithPets.com. Short-nosed breeds, young pets, seniors or pets with weight, respiratory, cardiovascular or other health problems are especially susceptible to heat-related stress.
Signs of heat stress in dogs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting and a deep red or purple tongue. If a pet becomes overheated, immediately lowering their body temperature is a must.
Conyers Animal Hospital Veterinarian Georgia Vella suggests leaving pets at home when running errands in the summertime. Fortunately her practice has seen very few cases of vehicle-related heatstroke, but Vella said it is vital to use alcohol to cool pads down and put ice near the dog’s underbelly at the first indication of potential heat-related stress.
“Always be aware of where your pets are all times, and when in doubt, leave them at home,” Vella said.