The Heat Is On

By: Courtney Lassiter Email
By: Courtney Lassiter Email

Heat related illnesses are always an issue during the summer.

It's been less than a week since two Eastern Kentucky brothers were found dead in the trunk of their mother's car. The boys had accidentally locked themselves in the car and died from the heat.

From 1979 to 2003 there were 8,000 heat-related deaths across the country.

That may not seem like a significant number to you, but it's more than all the natural disaster deaths in that time period.

Heat related deaths are preventable. We did an experiment to see the effects of leaving a healthy adult in a hot car. One of our reporters, Sarah Goebel, volunteered to let us do the experiment on her.

In this story you'll see the changes her body went through while under intense heat.

"We're going to monitor her heart rhythm," paramedic, Jim Williams explained. "All her vital signs are normal and heartbeat looks good. Her temperature now is 98.4 degrees."

Williams checked Sarah before she got into her hot car which had already been sitting in the sun for a few hours.

"So right now she's sweating. It's not comfortable but there's no pain," Williams said as he peeks inside the tinted windows to check on Sarah. "Less and less of her sweat will be evaporated from her body - that means less and less heat will escape her body."

Williams narrated what Sarah was going through while sitting in the car. He said she was sweating so much, her clothes looked wet.

"The inside of a car is exactly like the inside of an oven," Williams explained.

For instance, Williams said it was probably 90 degrees outside and, "inside the car is probably 130 to 140 degrees."

Sarah was in the car for 15 minutes before we checked on her and she got out.

"It is getting really hard to breathe," Sarah said as we opened the door.

Her temperature was at 100.6 degrees after that short amount of time. Williams checked her vitals again.

"She started out at 120/70 and now she's 130/74," Williams said her heart rate went up from the heat. "It's now 93 that's even being out of the car for a second, originally it was 76."

Williams said it doesn't take much time for damage to happen.

"She was only in the car for as long as you'd leave your kids to go the Minit Mart," Williams said.

Sarah, who has never had any major health problems, admitted while in the car a little bit of fear set in.

"When I started to think about not being able to breathe, a little claustrophobia was working on me," Sarah explained.

For tips from the Red Cross on how to avoid heat exhaustion, be sure to click here.


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