When hot and muggy weather debuts each year, as is expected to happen tomorrow, many people can be caught unprepared for a variety of dangers, health authorities warn.

At greatest risk are children, pets and the elderly.

Related stories

Here is a list of safety measures to take during heat waves, according to Drs. Thomas Cavalieri and Kendell Sprott of the University of Medicine and Dentistry.

ADVICE REGARDING CHILDREN

1. Never leave children unattended in a parked vehicle or near any pool or body of water for any amount of time.

2. Dress children in lightweight clothes, hats and sunglasses to protect against the sun.

3. Avoid outdoor activities during the midday hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) when the sun is hottest.

4. Wear and re-apply sunscreen frequently. Most lifetime damage from sun exposure occurs before reaching adulthood.

5. Children dehydrate faster than adults and should drink plenty of water during hot weather. Grape or apple juice diluted with water is a good alternative to sports drinks which can contain both salt and sugar.

6. If you do leave a child in a hot, parked car and return to find that child asleep, don't assume he or she is taking a nap. Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include confusion and lethargy, which means that child could be seriously hurt. Remove that child from the car immediately. If that child is unresponsive, call 911.

ADVICE REGARDING THE ELDERLY

1. Check on elderly relatives and neighbors twice daily during hot weather.

2. Make sure older individuals are appropriately dressed. An older person's body cannot adjust to changes in temperature as quickly as a younger individual.

3. Encourage non-caffeine fluids and make sure they are within easy reach. Many older individuals have a diminished thirst reflex that keeps them from drinking or take medications that cause them to dehydrate more quickly.

4. If safety for finances keep older individuals behind closed doors without air conditioning or fans, offer to stay with them while windows are open or to take them to an air-conditioned environment.

IF YOU SUSPECT A HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS

1. Heat cramps are spasms of the large muscles of the abdomen or legs accompanied by excessive perspiration. Move this person to a cool area to rest and to drink plenty of caffeine free, non alcoholic liquids.

2. Heat exhaustion causes heavy perspiration, dizziness, weakness and nausea. Treat heat exhaustion with rest, drinks of cool water every 10 or 15 minutes and by applying cool, wet cloths directly to the skin. Seek immediate medical help if symptoms don't improve quickly or if they suddenly worsen.

3. Heat stroke causes all the symptoms of heat exhaustion, without the perspiration. Other symptoms include fainting, staggering or acting in a strange or confused manner. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition. Call 911 or emergency services for immediate help.