Summer is here and heat and humidity are on the rise. Heat and high humidity is a dangerous mix that contributes to illness and death. Whether your summer plans include strenuous work-related activity or just fun and recreation, the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department is urging residents to be aware of the symptoms and seriousness of heat stress as the season begins and to take appropriate action to escape the heat.

"If your home is not air-conditioned, make alternate plans ahead of time in case of a heat wave," said Tina Worrell of the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department. "Choose other places you may go to get relief from the heat during the hottest part of the day such as libraries, theaters, malls or other community facilities."

On days when the heat index reaches 105 degrees and/or temperature reaches 100 degrees, citizens of North Little Rock can go to the NLR Heat Relief Center (HRC) located at the North Little Rock Community Center, 2700 Willow St. The HRC will operate from noon to 5 p.m.

Residents can call the Heat Relief Hotline at 340-5454 to determine if the heat relief center will be open for the day. The community center can be reached at 791-8541.

While elderly, people with health problems, and very younag children are the most vulnerable, heat can affect anyone — even strong, healthy athletes can be stricken. Bodies are cooled primarily by losing heat through the skin and perspiration. Problems occur when people are unable to shed excess heat. When heat gain exceeds the amount people can get rid of, human temperature begins to rise and health-related illness may develop. Heat disorders are progressive and should be attended to immediately.

Those who work, exercise, or participate in strenuous activity, such as baseball practice, for an hour or more during intense heat may lose up to two quarts of body water. During hot weather, follow these safety tips:

1) Never leave children, pets, or others alone in closed vehicles. Within minutes; the temperature inside a car can reach over 140 degrees, which can kill.

2) Slow down, and avoid strenuous activity.

3) Avoid too much sunshine, and postpone outdoor activities and games.

4) Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty.

5) Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which promotes water loss.

6) Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as taking a cool shower immediately after coming inside from hot temperatures.

7) If you have to work outside, take frequent breaks, rest in the shade, and drink plenty of water

8) If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public building every day for several hours.

9) Dress for the weather: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, lightly-colored clothing.

10) If you must be outside, cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburn.

11) Protect your neck, face, and head with a wide-brimmed hat.

For answers to questions, please call North Little Rock Parks and Recreation at 791-8543.