Weather experts maintain that temperatures this summer arenít any hotter than in previous years, but that is small consolation. It is plenty hot in Texas right now, and conditions are bad enough that they have become a threat to the health of many residents.

What needs to be done is no secret; the trick is doing what is logical and sensible. Outdoor activities should be scheduled during the cooler times of the day ó in the early morning and at night. Care should be taken to avoid dehydration and sunburn. And during the heat of the day, refuge should be found indoors, preferably in an air-conditioned space.

Air-conditioning is especially important as outdoor temperatures hit the 100-degree mark, health officials say. Fans that move air around are helpful, but they are helpful only to a point. When the indoor air is superheated, fans may not be able to cool a personís body as much as it needs.

Still, fans are an economical way to stay comfortable on hot days and nights. But some households cannot afford even this option. So help is available through Good Samaritan Ministries which is distributing box fans and energy-saving packages donated by TXU Energy. Income eligibility guidelines and other requirements must be met, but for people who canít afford to buy a fan ó much less install an air-conditioner ó this program could literally be a lifesaver.

Almost as important as the fans Good Samaritan is distributing are the packages and materials designed to help residents make their homes more energy efficient. Included in the packages are cooler-burning light bulbs that can replace less efficient incandescent bulbs, weather-stripping for doors and windows, and insulation to go inside outlet covers. These are simple ways every household can use to reduce the amount of electricity they use, and lower their utility bills.

Keeping cool is a hot topic in Texas this summer, and itís not just a good idea. Itís imperative. Your health is at stake. Very few residents are in a position where they can afford to merely dial down the thermostat on the air-conditioning until autumn arrives. Tips such as these, and programs like the one being administered by Good Samaritan Ministries, can help everyone protect their health and their budget.

Brownwood Bulletin