COLUMBIA - With summer temperatures rising, local law enforcement is urging people not to leave young children unattended in hot cars.
The Pulaski County Sheriff's Department said on Facebook it has rescued three unattended children from hot cars in the past two weeks.
"The temperatures inside a shut-up vehicle can climb very quickly into the lethal range when it comes to the health of a small child," the post said.
According to noheatstroke.org, since 1998, 712 U.S. children have died from heatstroke after being left alone in cars. 18 of those deaths were in Missouri.
"Kids are more susceptible than adults to temperature rising quickly," said Dr. Karli Urban, a physician at MU Urgent Care. "And because they are more affected by rapid temperature change, they are more commonly affected by heat-related illnesses."
Urban said her clinic most commonly treats heat rash and dehydration from such incidents. Those are often precursors to heat stroke. Urban said many of the patients were not left alone long.
"No amount of time is a safe time to leave a child unattended in the heat," she said. "You think you're just running in somewhere for two seconds but it's really more like ten minutes and that's too long."
It doesn't matter if the windows are rolled down either, according to Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker.
"Even if they believe the vehicle is well-ventilated or or windows are maybe down some or whatever else, it's generally not enough because this heat comes along fast and its very dangerous when combined with humidity," he said.
Shoemaker said his department urges people to call police if they see a child who could be in danger.
"We encourage people to pay attention if you're pulling into a parking lot of a grocery store or supermarket and you see something that looks like a child unattended," Shoemaker said. "We would much rather respond and it be nothing and that person be right around the corner than a child be left in the car and suffer from serious injury or death potentially."