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Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Cold takes toll - two area men die

By Margie Wuebker
Heavy snow and frigid temperatures can be a lethal combination for area residents who head outside with shovel in hand to clear sidewalks and driveways.
Even those out for a walk are at risk without proper precautions.
Two Celina men have died in recent days after spending time outdoors.
Jerome Hoelscher, 62, 844 Hemlock St., Celina, died Wednesday afternoon at his residence. He reportedly had shoveled snow during the morning and then laid down to rest at 1 p.m. Rescue squad personnel responded to the Hoelscher home around 2:20 p.m. in response to a 911 call.
On Tuesday morning, paramedics went to the home of Herschel Sowders, 68, 680 N. Walnut St., Celina, after he collapsed outdoors.
Both men were pronounced dead at the respective scenes and taken to Cisco Funeral Home in Celina.
Additionally, a Rockford man collapsed at his West Front Street home and was taken by ambulance to Van Wert County Hospital. He was treated and released.
Mercer County Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser warns exertion related to moving snow as well as exposure to the cold can be deadly.
"Breathing cold air constricts the coronary arteries causing them to go into spasms," Masser says. "If there is some buildup or blockage present in those vessels it can rob circulation to the heart muscle."
With nearly a foot of snow falling in recent days, eager residents set about removing drifts. Masser was among them.
"This is not light and fluffy snow," he added. "Shoveling or trying to push it aside represents a significant amount of work."
People unaccustomed to regular strenuous exercise may not realize how taxing the activity is to the heart. The danger applies to anyone over age 35 and not just the elderly, Masser said.
"Every winter we seem to have some unfortunate people die after participating in outdoor activities," he said. "In many cases, there was some pre-existing condition they may not have been aware of."
The health commissioner suggests people don face masks or cover their nose and mouth with a scarf to block at least some of the cold air. Winds up to 40 mph Tuesday and Wednesday plus wind chills below zero early today only complicated matters.
Masser also recommends working at a slower pace rather than vigorously attacking snowpiles. The best case scenario is having a medical checkup prior to winter's onslaught or staying indoors and hiring someone to do the work.
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