We Houstonians know how brutal the summer months can be. Summer officially began on June 21, but we felt the heat long before the solstice.

In July and August, Houston’s temperature consistently reaches up to 95 degrees each day, with a heat index often above 100 degrees. This past May was the hottest in the United States since the Dust Bowl era in 1934, setting daily record highs across the country.

However, whether or not we set records, it’s still going to be hot. The Houston Health Department assisted me in providing you with some tips to stay cool and safe in the summer months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 650 heat-related deaths occur each year. Those at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses are children younger than 4, seniors and the disabled. Individuals who work outside, such as those in construction, are also at risk because they work outside during the hottest part of the day (around 3 p.m.).

I want to remind those who work outside to stay hydrated and adjust when you might normally work and exercise to early morning or evening.

I ask all of you, especially those who know individuals who live in homes without air conditioners, check on your neighbor. If you know somebody without an air conditioner, take them to an area mall, library or one of Houston’s 11 multiservice centers so they can get out of the heat for a while. A few hours can help save a life.

To find the multiservice center closest to you, visit http://www.houstontx.gov/health/MSC/.

It is important that we all drink lots of liquids, even before feeling thirsty. It is best to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can make us dehydrated.

Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that permits the evaporation of perspiration can also help us remain cool.

A lot of us like going to the pool in the summer. In addition to wearing sunscreen, make sure you and your family practice proper pool safety – swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards, do not swim alone, and ensure that everyone in the family knows how to swim. One of the most effective ways to ensure pool safety is by enrolling your family in age-appropriate swim lessons.

Do not leave children, senior citizens, or pets unattended in a vehicle. When outside temperatures range from 80 to 100 degrees, the inside of a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 and 172 degrees, according to the CDC.

If you do not own an air conditioner and are unable to leave your home, taking cool baths or showers will help prevent heat-related illness.

We should all remain alert to heat advisories. The National Weather Service declares a Heat Emergency when the heat index reaches 108 degrees or higher on two or more consecutive days. A heat index of 108 is a potential health threat for all individuals, but especially for high-risk groups.

It is essential that we take these preventative measures to prevent unnecessary visits to the emergency room or hospital. Use the resources that are available to you to protect yourself and others who may be at risk. When Houstonians work together, we can thrive and stay cool during the summer months.