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Prescription for Trouble - Summer Heat and Medications

Prescription For Trouble - Summer Heat And Medications

When the temperatures rise during the summer, a potentially deadly danger lurks in the very medications many seniors take to stay healthy. Did you know a combination of the heat and the side effects from certain medications can put seniors in danger? Even the way drugs are stored can lead to health complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 85% of seniors suffer from a chronic condition or disease that requires medication.  

“In this hot summer, we want families to watch out for their elderly loved ones who are taking medicine and may not understand the health risks,” says Peter Tourian, Founder and CEO of SYNERGY HomeCare. “We urge families to consult with their doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of drugs and how they can hurt seniors in the heat.”

Heat illness, especially during a heat wave, has been linked to certain drugs known to affect body temperature.

  • Antidepressants and antihistamines act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. If a person can’t sweat, they are at risk for overheating.

  • Beta-blockers reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses, including hot weather. This also increases a person’s likelihood of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

  • Amphetamines can raise body temperature.

  • Diuretics act on kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather.

  • Sedatives can reduce a person’s awareness of physical discomfort which means symptoms of heat stress may be ignored.

  • Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine found in OTC decongestants decrease blood flow to the skin and impact the body’s ability to cool down.

If you take any prescription drugs, you also need to be aware that storage at high temperatures can quickly degrade the potency and stability of many medications.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Dr. Sarah Westberg, associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, spoke about the effects heat can have on medications.

"You may lose some efficacy of that drug, but it's probably not going to be harmful. But nitroglycerin [used to treat chest pain in people with cardiovascular disease] is an important example. That could be potentially a life-saving medicine, and if it doesn't work that's a big problem, versus if your ibuprofen doesn't treat your headache as well, that's an inconvenience, but you'll survive."

To ensure that your medication is fresh and fully effective, here are some summer pointers:

  • Check the storage information for any medications you take so that you are aware of any temperature restrictions

  • Carry medications on the airplane with you, instead of storing them in your checked luggage.

  • If you are traveling by car, do not store drugs in the trunk. Keep them in the car with you. Do not leave them in the car for extended periods.

  • If you have experienced an extended power outage at your home, contact your pharmacist to find out whether your medication should be replaced.

  • If you have the choice, have medication shipped to you by overnight delivery methods, and be there to accept the package.

It may be a good idea to discuss with your doctor the potential side effects heat, in whatever form, can have on the medications you are taking.

SYNERGY HomeCare

SYNERGY HomeCare is the premier provider of home care services. We strive to offer our clients the highest quality of life and independence possible. Call us today for a FREE in-home care assessment (877) 432-2692.

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