Summer is almost halfway over. You read that right.

Seems like only yesterday the hot weather and high humidity came crushing down, along with near-daily torrential rains and thunderstorms. And now, the clock is steadily ticking the days away until Labor Day.

But just because summer is sailing by doesnt mean its time to ease up on the precautions youve been taking for yourself, your loved ones and your pets when spending lots of time outdoors in high heat.

Yesterday, the Fourth of July — a day that many folks spend outdoors — was a hot (85 degrees, according to The Weather Channel) and humid (62 percent) day with UV levels in the “very high” zone, according to the EPA. Today, the temperatures are slated to be even hotter — about 90 degrees.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your cool and keep your pets and loved ones healthy during times of extreme heat:

* All you runners, walkers, golfers and bicyclists out there, make sure to stay hydrated with lots of non-alcoholic drinks. Drink even if youre not thirsty. Exercising early in the day or after the sun goes down is another option to beat the heat. When you exercise vigorously you raise your core body temperature. “This triggers a release of blood into the capillaries of your skin to cool you down, which then reduces the blood supply available to your exercising muscles. This basically means that you will have less blood and oxygen delivered to the power source that moves you forward — and less blood to move out the waste products from these work sites. As the waste builds up in the muscle, you will slow down,” according to So if youre feeling like your workout has stalled in the hot weather, blame the heat and use that excuse to slow down.

* Kids are even more susceptible than adults to heat-related illness. Help them keep cool and hydrated. And coated in sunscreen.

* Beware leaves of three. Poison ivy and other poisonous plants thrive in warm, wet summer weather. Having to suffer through a week of swollen, itchy skin is especially bothersome in hot weather. Better to avoid any plant that you cannot readily identify.

* Sunburn is just slightly less enjoyable than poison ivy. It takes up to six hours for a burn to manifest so you might not realize the extent to which you are burnt until it is too late. Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.

* If youre outside, remember that so are mosquitoes, bees, ticks and other pests. Spray on some bug repellent before you head into the great outdoors. Insect repellents that contain at least 20 percent DEET can reduce your chances of tick bites.

* If you dont have air conditioning at home, head to a place that does, like a museum or a movie theater.

* Pay close attention to your pets. Per the ASPCA, pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh water. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when its extremely hot. Heat stroke is one of the deadliest summer dangers for dogs. Also, never leave your dog … or anyone … in the car on a hot day. says if youre looking for something to help occupy your dog or keep them cool on really hot days, you might try filling a childs wading pool. “Dogs that love water tend to really enjoy splashing around and even those dogs that dont like to at least put their feet in on the really hot days.”

Above all, have fun, and keep your family safe for the rest of this summer.

Enjoy it while its here, because Christmas is less than six months away.

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