Early heat wave points to more miserable days ahead.

Southwest Kansas is mired in a heat wave far too reminiscent of last year's vicious onslaught of extremely warm temperatures.

Summer arrived just five days ago, and already the region has a multiple count of high temperatures topping the century mark. The forecast calls for more of the same all this week.

Just like last year, the heat has a way of threatening anyone and anything outside. People, pets and plants namely crops all are at risk.

Unfortunately, too many of us take the heat in stride and fail to take necessary precautions.

Everyone should be cautious when going outside, whether it's to work or participate in other outdoor activities that may not seem strenuous. but can be perilous in extreme heat.

Hot weather can attack anyone who isn't prepared. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other ailments may occur with prolonged exposure and/or physical activity when temperatures soar.

The National Weather Service reminds people to drink plenty of water; wear lightweight, light colored clothing; take plenty of breaks during outdoor activity; and avoid prolonged exposure between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on hot days.

People also should keep an eye on elderly and disabled friends and neighbors, and others without air conditioning or other means to stay cool.

Animals at home and on the farm also require more shade and water. Like people, they can suffer from dehydration, heat stroke, sunburn and other problems if overexposed to the heat.

Pets should be kept indoors whenever it's extremely hot. When that's not possible, they need plenty of fresh, clean water and shady places to cool off. And never leave a dog or cat inside a parked vehicle in the heat, even for a few moments.

After the ugly heat of 2011 including a record-setting July with 21 days over 100 degrees it seemed unlikely that we'd see a repeat of such misery. Yet we could be in store for as much if not more.

So, think ahead before going outdoors. Find ways to stay cool and keep an eye on those most vulnerable.

A little extra kindness and attention could be a lifesaver.