The official start of summer is still a couple of weeks away, but temperatures already are in the upper 80s and lower 90s, with ‘‘real feels’’ in the upper 90s or low 100s. And those ‘‘real feels’’ will be even higher when the temperatures hit the upper 90s and low 100s when the dog days of summer roll around in late July and early August.

Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly, children, the poor, people who work or exercise outdoors, and those with chronic medical conditions are especially susceptible. That makes now the right time to remind East Texans about some weather-related summer safety tips before it gets any hotter.

In general

■ Know the signs of heat-related illness. Early warning signs of dehydration include a change in mental status or confusion, constipation, sunken eyes, no tears, a decrease in blood pressure but increase in pulse rate, listlessness and decreased urine output.

■ When engaging in outdoor activities, take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors. Also, apply and reapply sunscreen often.

■ Wear lightweight, breathable and light-colored clothing.

■ Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Most health officials recommend a minimum of 64 ounces of water a day. Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine.

■ Check on your neighbors daily — especially the elderly, who may be more susceptible to heat stress, and those on fixed incomes who may be concerned about expensive utility bills.

Kids and cars

The Texas Department of Public Safety offers the following tips for preventing vehicular deaths or injuries:

■ Always check the back seats of your vehicle before walking away.

■ Call 911 if you see a child alone in a car, and emergency personnel will instruct you what to do next.

■ If a child goes missing, open the doors and trunks to every vehicle in the area. One-third of all deaths occur when a child accesses a parked car unnoticed.

■ Teach children not to play in vehicles and make sure to place the keys out of reach when not being used.

Near water

■ Never leave small children alone near water inside or outside the house. This includes pools, lakes, bathtubs, toilets, aquariums or buckets.

■ At a family gathering or party, never assume someone else is watching the children.

■ Never leave a baby alone in a bath for any reason.

■ Warn babysitters or caregivers that young children need constant supervision near water.

■ Make sure that all doors and gates leading to a residential pool are secured so that toddlers cannot wander out of the house and into pools or hot tubs.

■ Secure swimming pools with fences and self-closing and latching gates.

■ Completely remove the pool cover when the pool is in use.

■ Don’t leave toys in or near water where they may attract a small child.

■ Be ready for emergencies. Learn CPR and keep emergency phone numbers handy.

■ Find out if your child’s friends or neighbors have pools and know these safety tips.


There are four basic precautions for boaters, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:

■ Wear a life jacket.

■ Use the ignition safety switch. Commonly called a “kill switch,” it stops the engine if you fall overboard so you won’t be stranded or run over by your boat.

■ Learn how to swim.

■ Closely supervise children.

Our four-legged friends

■ Never leave an animal alone in a vehicle. Even with the windows open, a parked car, truck or van can quickly become a furnace.

■ When traveling, carry a gallon Thermos filled with fresh, cold water.

■ Only exercise your pet in the cool of the early morning or evening.

■ In extreme hot weather, don’t leave your dog standing on the street, and keep walks to a minimum. Pets are much closer to the hot asphalt, and their bodies can heat up quickly. Their paws can burn since they are not protected by shoes.

■ Only take your pet to the beach if a shaded spot and plenty of fresh drinking water are available. Rinse them off after they have been in salt water.

■ Always provide shade for an animal staying outside the house. A properly constructed dog house serves best. Bring the dog or cat inside during the heat of the day and let them rest in a cool part of the house. Always provide plenty of cool, clean water for the animal.

Energy usage

The last thing any of us want is for the state’s electric grid to fail because of high temperatures and high demand.

■ Turn off all unnecessary lights and electronic equipment.

■ Close blinds and drapes for windows that get direct sun.

■ Try not to use the dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryers, coffeemakers, or other appliances during the peak hours of 3-7 p.m.

■ Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers unnecessarily.

■ Use microwaves for cooking instead of an electric range or oven.

■ Set your pool pump to run in the early morning or late evening.

That first cool snap of fall is a long way away. We need to take every precaution to ensure we survive the summer.