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      Chill out! Tips to stay cool where it's famously hot

      Summer in the Midlands brings mixed emotions to those who live here.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - Summer in the Midlands brings mixed emotions to those who live here. We look forward to bikinis and bbq's, weekend trips to the beach and long days at the lake. However we also dread the oppressive temperatures and unrelenting sunshine as our environment echos conditions typically found in an oven.

      It's important to keep in mind that many of our days will be dangerously hot, and we need to make sure we are properly prepared for all weather possibilities. Hurricane season is underway, and at this point we should have our emergency supplies and contingency plans in place. However, it's equally important to be prepared for everyday conditions, and in our "famously hot" city that means scorching temps and energy draining humidity. There's not much we can do about the mercury, but we can take steps to ensure the safety and comfort of our families.

      Beginning with your home, find the sweet spot on your thermostat. SCE&G suggests 78 or higher in the summer, noting that each degree higher or lower can significantly impact your cooling costs. Also, ceiling fans are a great investment. When used in conjunction with your AC, just the movement of the air inside the house may be enough to lower that thermostat and save you money on those electric bills. You might save between 10 and 40 percent! That means that ceiling fans could easily pay for themselves over just one or two summers. If you do not have air conditioning, consider spending a few hours at the library, grocery store, mall or movie theater, those places usually crank the AC!

      Dress down. Choose lightweight and breathable clothing for yourself and your children, with loose-fitting, light colored fabrics being the most comfortable. Also, don't forget the importance of sunglasses and hats or visors. The bright daylight can be a strain on your peepers so make sure you have protection from those harmful UVB's. You can also reduce the risk of outdoor sun stroke by taking breaks in the shade and being adequetly hydrated. Try to have a couple glasses of water, juice or sports drinks every hour. It's a good idea to limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks as well.

      Sunscreen is a must, and should be used as directed. Choose SPF 15 or higher and be sure to re-apply every hour and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. If you usually excercise outdoors, try to schedule your activities toward the early and latter parts of the day when the sun isn't as powerful. If you work outside, pace yourself and rest frequently in a shaded area.

      Never, under any circumstances, leave a child or pet in your car. Toddlers and seniors are most at risk, so check in on your family, friends and neighbors periodically and encourage hydration and slower movements. Become familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and be prepared to give immediate treatment.

      Know the signs of over-heating for your pets as well, as their symptoms can be very different from humans. There are websites for both canine and feline care, so it might be good to bookmark those for reference. Make sure to check their access to water and shade throughout the day.

      Summer's here so have fun!

      Stay safe. Stay cool.