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Heat-Related Illness while taking Psychiatric Medications

By Nicole Wurstle, PA-C

As the weather becomes more hot and humid this summer keep in mind that almost all psychotropic medications can decrease the body’s response to heat which may put you at risk for heat-related illness. Medications that can decrease heat tolerance include common medications prescribed here at Hope419. Some medications that can decrease heat tolerance include:

  • Antidepressants(e.g.Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Effexor)

  • Antipsychotics (e.g. Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel, Latuda, Risperdal)

  • Amphetamines (e.g. Adderall)

  • Beta-Blockers (e.g.propranolol, atenolol, nadolol)

  • Diuretics or water pills (e.g. furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide)

  • Anticholinergics (e.g. Cogentin, Artane)

LITHIUM- Increased perspiration and water loss can cause higher levels of lithium in your blood which puts your at risk for lithium toxicity. Signs and symptoms of lithium toxicity include: dizziness, unsteadiness, tremor, slurred speech, lethargy, and confusion. Please seek immediate treatment or go to the emergency room if signs lithium toxicity occur. During high heat times, it is extremely important to increase your fluid intake if you are on lithium. It is not uncommon to see acute changes in lithium levels, leading to lithium toxicity during heat waves when people do not adequately increase water intake.

*This is not a comprehensive list please consult your medication provider or pharmacist about your medications.

Are some populations at increased risk of heat related illness?

Yes, the elderly or those with medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease and alcohol use disorders may be more susceptible to heat-related illness. Know that alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids may decrease your awareness of heat-related illness. Drugs such as cocaine, anabolic steroids, hallucinogens, and ecstacy or MDMA may also decrease your heat tolerance.

What are the signs and symptoms of heat related illness?

Heat-related illness varies from mild forms such as heat exhaustion with warning signs such as heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting. Heat stroke is a deadly form of heat-related illness that occurs when we cannot control our body temperature so the temperature rises rapidly. Warning signs of heat stroke include confusion, unconsciousness, body temperature higher than 103 degrees fahrenheit, red, hot, and dry skin, or throbbing headache. Please call 911 or seek treatment immediately if signs of heat stroke occur.

How Can Heat-Related Illness be Prevented?

Drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly, avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Wear sunscreen, loose fitting and light-colored clothing while outside. Spend time in cooler environments when possible. Try to eliminate heat in your home by keeping the drapes closed during the day. Avoid outdoor activity during hottest hour of the days.

For more information please consult with your medication provider about heat-related illness.

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