The official first day of summer arrived yesterday, June 21, and new high temperature records were likely set. The thermometer is bound to soar upward several times this season and although we grow accustomed to it, it never hurts to brush up on the latest heat safety tips.

According to the National Weather Service, excessive heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, far surpassing cold and winter conditions. Heat has been at the top of that list for the past 30 years, claiming about 600 lives every year, per Centers for Disease Control statistics.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) notes that as daily temperatures rise above 80 degrees, there’s an increase in the number of residents seeking emergency care for heat-related illness and, as to be expected, this occurs more likely early in summer since our bodies aren’t used to high temperatures and residents aren’t yet taking the necessary precautions.

OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, says that those working in hot weather, both indoors and out, should be encouraged to drink water every 15 minutes. Employers should also have an emergency plan for responding to signs of heat-related illness in workers.

The MDHHS wants to remind caregivers that a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult, which makes them more susceptible to heatstroke.

Obviously animals aren’t immune from the effects of heat either. When it comes to our pets, it’s crucial to take steps to prevent heat stress from occurring. Those steps include providing unlimited fresh water and access to shade or other cool spots; not leaving animals in parked cars even if the windows are open slightly or the vehicle is parked in the shade and recognizing that an animal’s ability to tolerate heat varies based on their age, breed and health history, state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland noted in a press release last week.

When heat and humidity reach extreme levels, the Michigan State Police encourage residents to check on family members or neighbors who are most susceptible to the elements, including the elderly and those who are ill or have health risks.

Now is the time to focus our efforts on staying cool and safe this summer.