Mona Shand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It is a parent’s worst nightmare, but it happens every summer – kids suffer heatstroke and, in some cases, even die after being left in hot cars. This summer, children’s safety advocates are teaming up to help parents and other caregivers prevent this tragedy.

Registered Nurse Phyllis Larimore is a car-seat safety specialist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, who says children can suffer fatal hyperthermia in a closed vehicle within minutes, even when the outside temperature is mild.

What is often behind these tragedies, she explains, is a change in routine.

“Children have stopped going to school, so there’s something new, or someone else is taking them to day care,” says Larimore. “These things happen across all socioeconomic strata, all types of parents.”

Larimore reminds parents that a child should never be left alone in a car, not even for a minute, and to make sure the doors are locked when the car is not in use so they can’t get in on their own.

She also recommends putting something you’ll need at your final destination, like a purse or a cell phone, in the backseat as a reminder that the child is also in the backseat.

And anyone who sees a child alone in a car is urged to call 9-1-1.

Children’s Mercy Hospitals, along with other organizations, distribute free car stickers that read “Where’s Baby?” as an additional reminder to make sure no one is left inside.

“We ask the parent to put them right there where your hand touches as you’re closing your car door – right there on the driver’s side, right beside the lock,” Larimore says. “And hopefully, that will jar your attention.”

The stickers are available in the hospital lobby, and at many local fire and police stations.

According to the nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, nearly 400 children have died in hot cars in the last decade. That’s an average of 38 deaths per year.