If you have to be told, here you go: Don’t forget that kid in the backseat

(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of AAA Tidewater)
(Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of AAA Tidewater)

According to NoHeatStroke.org, 25 kids in Virginia died after suffering from heatstroke in vehicles from 1998 to 2018 — as of Aug. 7, there’ve been 29 deaths in the U.S. so far this year, with one death in Virginia.

Also according to the site run by the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University, during the 20-year time period, 53.8 percent of the children who died as a result of heatstroke in a vehicle across the country were “forgotten by a caregiver.”

Dr. Peter Grosso is a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and recently published an Around the Blocks blog on the hospital’s site urging “distracted and exhausted” parents to make checking their backseat a habit.

“A sleeping baby or toddler won’t make any noise to remind the driver they are in the backseat,” he said.

Grosso recommended “creating reminders” like leaving a purse or phone in the backseat while driving so you’ll have to look when you get out the vehicle.

He said parents should always lock unoccupied cars to avoid children being able to climb in on their own and become trapped — the second most common way kids die by vehicular heatstroke, according to noheatstroke.org.

“Teach small children how to honk the horn should they become trapped in a car,” Grosso said.

This summer, heat indexes in the region climbed as high as 115 degrees, but Grosso notes even on “mild weather days with temperatures in the 60s,” both cars and children can heat up quickly.

“A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s,” he said.

Daniel Hudson is the spokesman for Norfolk Police Department. He said if residents are concerned about a child left unaccompanied in a car, the best thing to do is call 911 right away.

“If the child looks sick or the witness is worried they should call 911 to receive advice from the dispatcher and get the police there,” Hudson said.

Other ways Grosso said parents can avoid “hot car tragedies” include making a plan with childcare providers to call if your child doesn’t show up as scheduled and using the drive-thru for errands if available.

“Never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a minute,” he said.

See more hot car tragedy prevention tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics by clicking here.

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.