Summer Weather and Medications

Many psychotropic medications increase one’s sensitivity to the sun and heat, increasing chances of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Those taking psychotropics can review the listed side effects for heat sensitivity and take special precautions.  It is a known fact that many medications come with side effects, most minimal, while others are more serious.  It is important to be aware of the purpose of your medication and its possible side effects, including heat sensitivity precautions.

Medications taken for ADHD, Bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression may increase sun and heat sensitivity.  Certain classes of medication can cause a higher risk of heat sensitivity side effects, such as sunburn, skin rashes, or skin irritations due to the body’s interaction between the medication and time spent in the sun.  These medications may impact the body’s ability to retain water and naturally cool itself.  In this instance, you may not feel thirsty which infers with the body’s ability to perspire, raising your overall body temperature.  When the body is not able to properly cool itself, its ability to protect itself from heat exposure or heat stroke decreases.  While the summer is often about beach time and other outdoor activities, being aware of your medication’s possible side effects and your reaction to your medication becomes important.

In addition to psychotropic medications, medications that treat physical/medical ailments have the potential for side effects in the face of summer heat exposure.  Medications used to treat skin conditions, allergies, joint problems, infections, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, in addition to many other ailments, may increase summer sun and heat sensitivity.

Heat exhaustion can occur in both active and sedentary people. It happens suddenly and may be quite brief and requires medical attention.  Depending on the person and the situation, recovery may be spontaneous, or intravenous fluids may be required to prevent unconsciousness.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

– Irritability or change in behavior
– Low or normal temperature
– Slightly low blood pressure
– Rapid, full pulse and heartbeat
– Cold, pale skin
– Profuse perspiration
– Dizziness, headache, and weakness
– Nausea, vomiting
– Body cramps

Symptoms of sun and heat sensitivity are similar to those of sunburn: an itchy, burning, and/or stinging feeling, followed by a redder than normal looking burn. If you do not have a reaction the first time you’re exposed to the sun while taking medication, this does not eliminate the chance of a heat sensitivity related problem in the future.  If a person displays symptoms of heat exhaustion, he or she should be taken to a cooler place as soon as possible, given water, and encouraged to rest.

Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, occurs mostly during heat waves and, if left untreated, can be fatal. Individuals with chronic illnesses are most vulnerable to heatstroke. Symptoms include:

– Agitation, confusion, seizures, lethargy, or coma
– High body temperature (104ºF or above in adults)
– High blood pressure or low blood pressure
– Rapid pulse and heartbeat
– Rapid, shallow breathing if the person is moving about; slow and deep breathing if the person is still
– Hot, dry, flushed skin

Immediate action must be taken at the first sign of heatstroke.

– Call 911 immediately
– Loosen or remove outer layers of an individual’s clothing
– Move the person to a cool place
– Immerse individual in ice water or try to bring down body temperature with cold compresses
– Use CPR, if needed
– Replace fluids and sodium only under medical orders

Preventions of heat illness are important during the hot summer months, particularly during periods of high temperature and humidity. To lessen the chance of heat illness avoid over-exertion while outside, apply sunscreen as need, drink plenty of fluids, keep a salty snack on hand (to replace salt lost to perspiration), and dress in loose-fitting clothing.

If you want to learn more about summer Weather and Medications on your moods and functioning – call us, Specialized Therapy Associates,  at 201-488-6678.