It’s summer and it’s hot here in Texas. It’s probably getting hot wherever you are this summer. And that heat can be dangerous to those who work or exercise outdoors, to the youngest children, to the elderly, and to anyone who is unable to stay cool in his home. It’s truly tragic that it is not unusual for elderly persons to be found fatally ill or dead closed up in their home with no working fans or air conditioners during the summer across our nation. That just should not happen.
Statistics from the Texas Dept. of State Health Services show that there were 263 deaths reported among Texas residents with exposure to excessive natural heat as the underlying cause of death from 2003 through 2008. Most of these deaths occurred in June, July, and August. Most of those dying from heat-related causes were elderly people. Sixty-four of these 263 were people in the 75 to 99 year- old age group.
Staying in an air-conditioned area is the most effective way to combat heat. If you do not have adequate air-conditioning in your home, then you need to find an area which has air conditioning and stay there during the hottest part of the day. Visit a shopping mall, public libraries or a heat-relief sheltering area provided by a social service agency. You may be able to obtain low-cost or free fans and air conditioners from social service agencies or your local Area Agency on Aging.
You can also find help with your utility bills so you can afford to pay for that air conditioning. The Low Income Home Energy Program exists throughout the United States to help those who need help with utility payments. In Texas, the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is a statewide utility assistance program. CEAP is designed to assist low income households in meeting their immediate energy needs and to encourage consumers to control energy costs for years to come through energy education. The CEAP is administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs through various agencies, which collectively cover all 254 counties of the state. To find help in your city, go to the website of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and go to the Help for Texans page. http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/texans.htm You will find a section titled “Utility bill help” that will give you contact information for the appropriate agencies in your area.
Avoid heat- related illnesses and illnesses that might be caused by stress, like stroke and heart attack, by practicing some common sense and caution. Drink plenty of cool fluid, especially water; avoid alcohol and caffeine. Take a water bottle with you whenever you leave the house. Wear light-weight, light-colored clothing. Limit outdoor activities during the hottest times of the day. Listen to the weather report each day so you will know what to expect. Stay cool indoors, especially in the heat of the day, with air conditioners, not just fans alone. On a hot day, never leave anyone in a car, not a baby, a child, an elderly or disabled person.
For more information about heat-related illnesses, including prevention and treatment tips, you can visit the CDC’s Extreme Heat Safety Web site. Read the publication “Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety”.
If you don’t have adequate cooling in your home, then don’t delay in seeking help to get an air conditioner today. It’s important to your health!