HEAT EXPOSURE IN AN ENCLOSED AUTOMOBILE
LYNN I. GIBBS, MPH; DAVID W. LAWRENCE, MPH, RN,CS; MEL A. KOHN, MD
During July 1995, an infant in southeast Louisiana died as a result of heat exposure in an enclosed automobile. To evaluate degree of heat exposure in a vehicle, we compared the temperature rise inside an enclosed, dark-colored vehicle with the temperature rise in a light-colored vehicle with the windows partly open. Within 20 minutes, readings in both cars exceeded 125°F and reached approximately 140°F in 40 minutes–a temperature rise of over 45°F. A person who is unable to remove himself from an enclosed vehicle is at risk for a life-threatening crisis if left alone in a sun-exposed car for even a relatively short period of time.
When the body is exposed to extreme temperatures serious harm can occur. Although heat-related illness and death occur primarily among the elderly, infants are also at risk (1, 2) Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur rapidly in enclosed vehicles. During July 1995, a two-year-old child in southeast Louisiana died as a result of heat exposure in an enclosed automobile. In addition, two children under the age of five died in Louisiana during 1993 from heat exposure.
This study compares the temperature rise inside two vehicles exposed to sunlight.