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Motor Vehicle Burn Safety

People traveling in motor vehicles need to be aware of the hidden dangers of heat-related injuries, especially for children and seniors, on high temperature days. These dangers can surface even after short periods of time spent in a hot vehicle.

When outside temperatures reach 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius), within 20 minutes, the temperature in a vehicle without air conditioning can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius), even with the window cracked, and approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) within 40 minutes.

Do not allow children to play in vehicle trunks in hot weather. Heat stroke may result and could lead to permanent disability or death in a matter of minutes.

As the temperature rises, remember these safety guidelines:

  • Never leave a child in a vehicle with the windows closed in hot weather.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around vehicles.
  • Pay particular attention to children when loading and unloading vehicles to be sure they have not entered the car or trunk.
  • When traveling, always make sure all passengers have exited the vehicle once you reach your destination. Do not overlook a sleeping passenger.
  • Avoid hot surfaces in your vehicle. (e.g. safety belt buckle and latch plates, vinyl or leather seats, child passenger seats, dashboards and sides of the vehicle), which can cause contact burns.
  • Use window shades in the front and rear windows. Place a light covering or shading over seats to reduce heat build up in the vehicle.
  • Before entering, run the air conditioner to help cool off the vehicle.
  • Keep the vehicle doors and trunk locked at all times, especially when parked in the garage or driveway or near houses. Children may become trapped while playing inside the passenger compartment or trunk of a car.
  • Close and lock if possible any rear seats that fold down for trunk access to prevent children from entering the trunk from inside the vehicle.
  • Be aware of child resistant locks and teach older children how to work the driver's door locks if they should become locked unintentionally in the vehicle.
  • Contact your local automobile dealership about getting a trunk release retrofitted in the trunk of your vehicle.

First Aid for heat-related vehicle injuries

  • Remove the person from the vehicle.
  • Place the person in a cool environment.
  • Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
  • Reassure the patient and keep him or her calm. (You must remain calm also.)
  • Treat contact burns as described in the Emergency Care for Burns Section of this kit.

Radiator Burns
A construction zone or accident may make you stop and wait, which can overheat your vehicle. When a vehicle is running and the radiator is functioning properly, the temperature of the fluid is normally between 195 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius) and 220 degrees Fahrenheit (103 degrees Celsius), which is hot enough to cause serious scald burns in less than one second. When the radiator overheats, the temperature of the fluid increases drastically and pressure builds. When the cap is removed, the liquid boils or even explodes out, potentially causing serious burn injuries. Common injury sites, primarily to adult males, are to the hands, face, arms and chest. In addition to scalds, radiator fluid contains antifreeze that may cause chemical burns.

Follow these safety guidelines:

  • Before any long trip, have your vehicle serviced.
  • Map out alternative routes in case of heavy construction to minimize the risk of your car overheating.
  • Never open a hot radiator cap! Allow the radiator to cool first.
  • Never look into or lean over the radiator opening.
  • Carry a first aid kit in your vehicle.

First Aid:

  • Put out any flames.
  • Remove all wet clothing.
  • Flush eyes and affected areas with cool water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Cover with clean dry dressing.
Seek medical attention.

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