(ABC4) – According to the National Safety Council, every year in the United States, 38 children (on average) under the age of 15 die from heat stroke after being left in hot cars. Since 1998, there have been 12 deaths in Utah. As summer heats up, a local pediatrician urges parents to never leave their children in the car, even if it’s just for a few minutes.    

Heat haze sits just above the asphalt. This is often referred to as a mirage. It forms a glossy surface above the road that often looks like water. It’s a sure sign of summer.  

“A car can heat up so quickly,” Dr. Isabel Cristina Lau told ABC4. “In just 10 minutes, a car can increase the temperature up to 20 degrees and that could happen really, really quick when we have a temperature that is above 90 degrees. So just make the calculation. It’s really not worth it.” 

Dr. Lau is a pediatrician at Ogden Regional Medical Center. As a pediatrician, the heat worries her for the safety of children across Utah.  

“It is not safe to leave any young kid in a car alone for any period of time,” said Dr. Lau. “Just remember that. It’s not worth it.”  

According to Dr. Lau, children are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as their adult counterparts. This makes sitting in a parked car that much more dangerous for them. “The body of a child heats up three to five times faster than an adult,” she added.  

A study by Stanford Medicine found that a car’s internal temperature can increase by 40 degrees in an hour regardless of outside temperatures. According to the study, 80 percent of that increase in temperature happens in the first half-hour.  

That same study also notes that children have died in parked cars on days in which the ambient temperatures were as cool as 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Even on those days, cracking the window of the car isn’t enough to keep a small child safe.   

Dr. Lau told ABC4 that if a child’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees, their organs begin shutting down. If a child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees, they can die.  

Most people would never leave their wallet in the car as they run a quick trip into the store. Law enforcement agencies across the United States, as well as doctors like Lau, agree that a person should also never leave a child in the car no matter how “short” the intended stop.   

“Let’s put our phones in the backseat next to our kids, or our bags in the backseat, so when we stop at the place we are going to park, we are going to reach for our phones and say, ‘Oh, our kids are there.'”  

Dr. Lau also noted that parents should hide their car keys from young kids. She explained that they often like to play in cars and may get stuck inside. She also noted that with how fast-paced life is today, accidents happen and parents can honestly forget they have a child in the car with them. She then emphasized just how important it is to remove distractions, like your phone, while you are in the car.