Triplicate Staff

House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today's column is written by Quenlyn Larson, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Sutter Coast Community Clinic.

Every year countless children die from hyperthermia (heat stroke) from being left unattended in the back seat of a car.

Since 1998, 529 children have died from heat stroke by being left in an unattended car. Thirty-three children died in 2010, and two children have died thus far in 2012, with the majority under 2 years of age. Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented.

Pets are also at risk for heat stroke if left in a car in hot

weather. Their body heat can reach dangerously high temperatures on a

hot day just like children and they need our help in keeping them safe.

People may not realize that leaving their pet in a locked car even with

the window rolled down will not keep them cool.

In just minutes, the inside of a car can become dangerously hot for a

child and/or pet. You might think that leaving your child and/or pet

inside in the back seat of a car even with the window cracked for a few

minutes cannot possibly harm them, but think again.

Even on a mild day, the temperature inside of a closed car can

quickly rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Even with the high

temperatures we get in Crescent City, in the 70s, or when traveling to

areas inland with higher temperatures like Southern California or

Brookings, in the 80s, the temperature inside a car can reach 90andndash;100

degrees in the time it takes to run a quick errand.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It happens when the body cannot

cool itself fast enough and the body's core temperature rises to

dangerous levels. Symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness,

disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, hot dry flushed skin

but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heart rate, and


California is one of the 19 states in the country that has laws that

specifically address leaving a child unattended in a car. It states that

a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who

is 6 or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without

being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 or older under

either of the following circumstances: 1) where conditions are present

that pose a significant risk to the child's health or 2) when the

vehicle's engine is running or when the vehicle's keys are in the

ignition and/or both. A violation is punishable by a $100 fine; however,

nothing prohibits additional prosecution.

The best approach is to never, never leave kids or pets unattended

in a car, not even for one minute. If you see a child unattended in a

hot car, call 911 or your local police. Be sure that everyone leaves the

car when you park and don't overlook sleeping babies.

Always lock your car and make sure children do not have access to

your car keys. Tell your children that cars are never to be used as a

place to play in. Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when your

child is in the car seat put the stuffed animal in the front seat to

remind you to look in the back seat before you leave the car.

Place your purse or brief case in the back seat as a reminder that

your child is in the car with you. Make it a habit to look before you

leave whenever you get out of your car and have a plan that your

child-care provider will call you if your child does not show up for


Stay safe, beat the heat, and check the back seat! Your child's life

or the life of your pet may depend on it. For more information go to

Safe Kids USA website at

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital,