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A little help against the heat

Published 7:31pm Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When my husband and I adopted our dog, I don’t think we were prepared for the amount of energy his 35-pound body would contain.

A little over two years later, we are still getting used to it. Despite resigning ourselves to the fact that at least two hours of every day — not counting several shorter walks — must be devoted to playing fetch with him, we still find ourselves hoping that he’ll cut play sessions short. Like when it’s almost a hundred degrees out and you can cut the humidity with a knife.

But that hasn’t happened. And perhaps that’s because he’s always guaranteed a nice spot on top of the vent for a dose of air conditioning after every long run. Which is the same reason we’re willing to let him run — we’ve got plenty of cool water and cool air to help us recover from the sweltering summer conditions that have finally hit the area.

But not everyone in Suffolk is so lucky. Across the state, thousands of people are forced to choose between food and shelter or air conditioning. And air conditioning is rarely high on the list of necessities.

But according to Dr. S. William Berg, Hampton Health Department health director, 26 percent of heat-related cases involved individuals who were inside without air conditioning. Berg also told the Suffolk News-Herald, “When temperatures reach the upper 90s or above, a fan may not prevent heat-related illness.”

Which is why a state program is so important. Applications are being accepted for the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Energy Assistance Program. There are a few assistance options available — from paying electric bills to replacing old air conditioning units. To be eligible, applicants must have a maximum gross monthly income (before taxes) of $1,211 for a one-person household or $2,498 for a household of four. Applications are due by Aug. 15.

With temperatures forecasted to reach triple-digits this weekend, it’s important to safeguard yourself and your family against potentially deadly heat. Drinking extra fluids and limiting outside activity isn’t always enough, especially if you don’t have access to air conditioning.

In Virginia, there were 10 heat-related deaths in 2011, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Let’s hope the state’s program can help reduce that number this year.

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