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My in-laws want to take my kids soon on a day where the outside temp is supposed to be close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C); unfortunately, their car does not have Air Conditioning. We live in the south U.S. were summer temperatures can be absolutely brutal.

Is it safe for my 6 year old and 5 year old to travel in a car with no A/C when the outside temp is 90 degrees?

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Assuming the windows are down, it'd be uncomfortable and hot, but no more uncomfortable and hot than if they were not in the car but outside. The danger of cars and heat is when they're left in a closed vehicle where temperatures can quickly reach 125+. –  DA01 Jun 6 '12 at 4:57
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I agree with DA01. Kids seem to be completely oblivious to stuff like that. We live in the south, too and we had 90 days over 90 degrees last summer. My kids didn't even notice! As long as your in-laws keep your kids well-hydrated and follow all the other general common sense rules about hot weather and children, then they should be fine. –  Meg Coates Jun 6 '12 at 5:31
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how did people cope pre-A/C? Yes - it's OK :) –  warren Jun 6 '12 at 20:56
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If you travel with windows down apply plenty of sun-screen. Due to the fast moving air you will not feel the sun as strongly and can easily get burned. And mentioned before, but can't be mentioned enough: Never leave kids in a closed vehicle when it is hot, even for a short amount of time. This can be, and unfortunately often is fatal. –  user548 Jun 12 '12 at 6:19
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...And have plenty of Water to drink ! –  NWS Aug 1 '12 at 8:43

3 Answers 3

The most important thing is to avoid temperature changes. Never freeze the car with A/C after starting a journey and try to rise the temperature in the car slowly before you stop.

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Yes, it is absolutely safe. At age 5 and 6, the kids are old enough to make a fuss if they are not ok. Keep water with them and they will drink as they are required.

If you are worried they will not drink enough, give them a packet of chips for the ride and the salt will sure get them drinking.

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Yes, it's uncomfortable.
No, it's not a concern.

My personal experience (having traveled many thousands of km/miles in the summertime as a child) is that high temperatures while driving is not a serious concern. When you don't have A/C, then your best defense against heat is to be smart:

Passengers will be thirsty.

  • Bring lots of drinking water, but avoid sweet drinks and soda.

Passengers will sweat.

  • Place a fluffy towel on each seat, from the knees to the shoulders. It's not so much about absorbing the sweat but more about adding a thin ventilation layer between yourself and the seat.
  • You'll need fresh air, and even if it's warm outside it will likely be warmer inside, so run the ventilation one or two notches higher than usual. Don't run it at full speed the whole time, that's very uncomfortable.
  • Unless you're driving very slowly, avoid opening any windows. The drafts can be very uncomfortable and even painful to the ears. Besides, the car's ventilation is better suited to actually ventilate the cabin in terms of getting rid of the old air.
  • Bring a spare t-shirt to change either along the way, or at the destination.

Keep the sun out.

  • As much as you safely can, block the rear side windows with a cloth diaper or similar. Roll down the window a little, put the top edge of the diaper over the window's edge, and roll it up again; the diaper now hangs down on the inside, blocking the sun from the passengers.
  • You can also buy suction-cupped window shades but IMHO these don't stick well (they suck because they don't, haha) and they don't cover enough of the window surface.
  • Don't drive through Death Valley.
  • Try to avoid driving during the noon hours (approx. 11:30-14:30) where the sun will hit you the hardest.
  • Consider that on a road trip, one side of the car will usually get all the sun. Periodically swap places so that all passengers get a break from the sunny side.

Passengers will be tired, and stressed.

  • When it's hot, taking rest stops frequently is even more important. You need to get out in the fresh air, chase each other around the car five times, hit the rest room, maybe buy an ice cream, and get back on the road again.
  • Bring fruits and other snacks that handle heat well. Avoid M&M's...

Of course all of the above applies to the driver as well but I wanted to focus on the kids' well-being.

My national drivers' association has an interesting recommendation for those who have A/C:

Don't set the A/C more than a few degrees colder than the outside temp because entering/leaving the car is more brutal to your health than the actual temp in the car. [paraphrased]

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I'd add one enormous proviso: if you get stuck in traffic and air is no longer circulating, it could get pretty dire. –  Benjol Jun 8 '12 at 7:38
    
@Benjol: That's when you turn up the blower, or roll down all windows, or (if it's a complete roadblock) get out of the car and stretch your legs. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 8 '12 at 8:42

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