Some medications may increase your risk of heat illness

Heat is a major danger to health, and some medications and health conditions can make the dangers of extreme heat worse.
Man drinking water
Posted at 7:28 PM, Jun 07, 2024

Heat is a major danger to health. Preparation and prevention are the most important ways to protect yourself from heat sickness like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially when some medications and health conditions can increase risk for heat illness.

"Be careful of what you're taking and putting in your body," Dr. Joshua Feinstein, ER Physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Center, told Scripps News.

Drinking plenty of water and limiting sugar are helpful for hydration, which helps keep your tissues and organs cool. Knowing the risk medications carry, whether they're over the counter or prescription, is also key. They can impact the way our body cools itself.

"A lot of the cold remedies have decongestants in it, and that can shunt the blood flow to different places and not let you sweat as effectively," Feinstein said.

Certain Parkinson's drugs, antihistamines, and antipsychotics can hinder sweating. Aspirin, laxatives, beta blockers, and blood pressure meds can reduce the feeling of thirst or the body's ability to dissipate heat.

This doesn't mean patients should stop taking their medications though. If you're concerned, talk to your pharmacist or a health care provider to know your exact risk.

You never want to leave medications in your car, but that's especially important this time of year. Heat and moisture can make meds less potent before they expire, by impacting their chemical makeup.

According to the CDC, inhalers can also burst, EpiPens may malfunction or deliver less epinephrine, and insulin may become less effective if left in the heat.

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Chronic health conditions may also increase risk for heat illness.

"Extreme heat has dire consequences for obesity patients because many of these patients suffer from diabetes and heart disease, and it won't take much to become dehydrated," Dr. Frank Chae, Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery Program at Sky Ridge Medical Center told Scripps News.

"If you start feeling weak, dizzy, tingling, if you're not feeling quite right, then get out of the heat. Make sure you have some fluids, and you may need to talk to a parent or friend. And if you feel bad enough, you may need to come and see your doctor or the emergency department," Feinstein said.

Recent analysis from the Associated Press shows last summer 2,300 deaths were associated with heat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 119,000 heat illness cases in the emergency department last year.