TDH Encourages Caregivers to "Look Before You Lock"

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 | 12:46 pm
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Summer Heat Claims Young Lives

NASHVILLE – Between 2005 and 2013, 13 Tennessee children died from heat-related causes, with nine of those deaths occurring in vehicles. In the United States, heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related death for children under the age of 14. As summer temperatures soar, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding everyone who transports children to “Look Before You Lock” car doors to ensure children are not left in a vehicle during hot weather.

“A vehicle’s internal temperature can rise quickly to a dangerous level, so it’s important to never leave a child alone in a car,” said TDH Commissioner John J. Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Any of us can be distracted, so we need to take some simple memory steps like putting something we need when we leave our cars, such as a briefcase or purse, beside our children to prevent a distraction from becoming a tragedy.”

It takes only ten minutes for a car to reach deadly hot temperatures on an 80 degree day, and even less time for heat stroke to begin. Heat stroke can occur when a person’s temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and his or her ability to handle heat is overwhelmed. The first symptoms include dizziness, disorientation and sluggishness, followed by loss of consciousness, hallucinations and rapid heartbeat. When the body’s core temperature reaches 107 degrees F, internal organs often stop functioning.

The Tennessee Department of Health reminds residents and visitors to A.C.T. to ensure children are not left in harm’s way:

A – Avoid Heatstroke

  • NEVER leave an infant or child alone in a vehicle, even if a window is cracked or if you’re parked in the shade.
  • Remember to “Look Before You Lock” - Look in the back seat every time you exit the car.

C – Create Reminders

  • Place an item like your work bag, wallet or purse in the back seat next to the car seat, so you’ll always check the back seat before you leave the car.
  • Tape a reminder note to your dashboard such as:  “Where’s Baby? Look Before You Lock”.
  • Have the day care call you if your child doesn’t arrive.

T – Take Action

  • If you see a child alone in a car, call 911.
  • Know the warning signs of heat stroke, which include red, hot and moist or dry skin; no sweating; a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse; nausea; confusion or acting strangely.
  • If a child is in distress due to heat, get him or her out as quickly as possible and cool off the child.    

“We all have a responsibility to help if we can,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, director of the TDH Division of Family Health and Wellness. “If anyone ever sees a baby alone in a hot car, don’t be concerned a parent might get mad about you calling 911. The parent might consider you a lifesaver.” 

A new law in Tennessee protects those who break into vehicles to rescue endangered children by granting immunity from paying damage costs in certain circumstances. The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in 2014 to entice the public to help children who may be trapped or left in vehicles and are at immediate risk of harm. Individuals who forcibly enter a vehicle in which a child is locked and in imminent danger are now protected from paying costs of damage to the vehicle if they have contacted authorities and have no other way to remove the child.

TDH is joined by other Tennessee state agencies in reminding caregivers of the risks of leaving children in hot vehicles. The Department of Human Services is sharing the Look Before You Lock message with child care providers across the state. The Department of Transportation is also including messages on overhead signs on Tennessee interstates reminding drivers not to leave children in hot cars.

More information is available at, your source for information on child health, education, development and support.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services to more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspections of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at