Sweltering summers are nothing new to Wiregrass residents, but the last several days have seemed particularly oppressive. Perhaps it has something to do with a broad heat wave that’s gripping much of the nation. What should separate Southerners from the rest of the nation is a good strategy to beat the heat while residents living where the summers are usually mild are struggling with the high temperatures.

Regardless of how familiar we are with the challenges such weather presents, some aspects are too important to take for granted: Heat can kill quickly.

Around this time several years ago, a woman stopped to shop at Walmart in Dothan, leaving several dogs in her car. When she returned, four were dead. A fifth dog died later. The animals perished because they were left in a car and became overheated.

We posed a question at the time: What if those animals had been children?

Earlier this summer, a two-year-old died after being stuck in a car at the family’s east Dothan home for several hours. Investigators believe the child got into the car and couldn’t get out.

The case echoes a similar situation in Dothan in the summer of 2011, when an unsupervised four-year-old boy got into the family car and was unable to get out because none of the interior door handles worked. The youngster succumbed to the heat, according to the coroner’s office.

We revisit these tragedies because temperatures and humidity levels are expected to remain high during the coming week, and it doesn’t take long for what’s uncomfortable to become life-threatening. Even on comparatively mild days during the Southern summer, temperatures in a vehicle can rise 40 degrees or so above ambient temperature, and the heat builds quickly.

We urge residents to be vigilant about the comfort of children, the elderly and infirm, and animals, ensuring that they stay hydrated and cool when the temperatures rise.

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