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SUMMER SIZZLE Health in heat: Better sweat it



Published: Sun, July 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although summer means pools and parks for some, others are concerned with the heat's potential dangers.

By ASHLEY POWERS

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The scorch of summer is a double-faced mistress. It entices swimmers, scuba divers and sunbathers alike, but it casts off those unable to grip with its searing burn.

That's why battling the scorch is so taxing: It's just that seductive.

Walter Duzzny is frustrated by the heat, by how Ohio's seasonal weather and its short swing to summer makes some forget its deadly capabilities.

"They want to grab it so much, they've waited so long," says the bespectacled director of the county emergency management agency with a sigh.

Outdoor activity: It's easy to forget. This is the time for lazy lounging in front of the pool and catching the ice cream drizzling down the edge of a cone.

Duzzny's still concerned, though.

The concern doesn't lie with the majority of area residents who are carefully watched or properly hydrated. Rather, it's the kids or pets left unsupervised to swelter or their grandparents living alone without air conditioning that give him pause.

"It's weather," he said. "It doesn't care. ... If it's 90 degrees, it's 90 degrees for everyone in the Mahoning Valley."

Including those at risk.

Temperatures for Ohio's July are on track to be average, according to the National Weather Service, and numerous agencies nationwide are repeating familiar mantras: Drink water. Wear light clothing. Stay inside when it's sizzling.

Vindicator archives indicate there hasn't been a local fatality solely related to heat in recent memory. The throbbing sun and unbearable humidity, however, often aggravate respiratory and heart conditions, said Patty Rush, spokeswoman for Humility of Mary Health Partners.

1993 campaign: Around 1993, Duzzny said, the heat was insufferable enough to institute the Check On A Friend Campaign. It encourages neighbors to peek in on the elderly or disabled, those most susceptible to heat's lethal grip, and send them to a public air-conditioned building if it's too stifling.

Julie Seiber, director of the Mahoning Valley Senior Center, is reminded each June of the potentially harsh mix of heat and exertion.

During the center's line dancing classes, participants are shuffled to the air-conditioned half of the building and given bottled water. The hot half isn't used again until the chill of mid-September.

"The elderly are more active than they used to be. They're out jogging now," Seiber said.

Such preventive measures must be taken elsewhere, Duzzny said, especially at home.

"In our fast track lives, we are taking situations at warp speed," he said. "We need someone to stop and remind us of the limits of our own health."

He shakes his head. It's his job to issue such reminders, and when it gets especially hot, they become orders.

Yet after the heat come the thunderstorms. After the thunderstorms come the blizzards. There's always an emergency to prep for.

And this season is just heating up.

apowers@vindy.com




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