• August 22, 2019

STONE: Is summer heat affecting your medications? - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Is summer heat affecting your medications?

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Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2019 5:15 am

Most people rely on a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications to treat an array of conditions. While these medications have their own unique warnings, side effects, and specific instructions on when and how to take them, we often do not realize the impact seasonal weather can have on several medications.

Summer heat can have a particularly significant influence on how medications work and affect our bodies. Understanding these impacts, and how to address them, can ensure both you and your medications are functioning properly.

Among the most common items summer heat has on medications include: reactions due to increased temperatures, reactions due to sun exposure, and simply those who are more prone to heat and sun exposure. We should pay closer attention to these risks and take a more proactive role toward preventing the negative outcomes that can and do occur when they are missed.

In response to warmer temperatures, the human body compensates by cooling itself through increased blood flow to the skin and in producing sweat. The blood flow toward the skin allows internal heat to radiate out from the body and evaporation of sweat off the body also promotes a cooling effect.

Unfortunately, some medications can inhibit one or both of these processes from occurring, leading toward an ineffective or even failure of the body to cool itself down.

Among the drugs that can reduce blood flow to your skin include stimulants and decongestants.

These include medications such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, both commonly found in over-the-counter medications many people use for seasonal allergies.

Other medications, reducing blood flow to the skin, are beta blockers such as propranolol, metoprolal, and atenolol, which are commonly used to treat blood pressure. These medications can reduce the ability of the heart to pump additional blood necessary to move blood toward the skin so it can dissipate body heat as temperatures increase.

Additionally, diuretics, such as furosemide (also known as Lasix) and hydrochlorithiazide (HCTZ) can cause dehydration and limit your body’s ability to produce sweat. If you take these types of medications, limit your outdoor activities during cooler hours such as early mornings and evenings and stay hydrated. Also, have access to shaded, cooled areas when you begin to notice your body temperature rising.

Heat isn’t the only concern when it comes to medication. Sun exposure and the increased sensitivity to it is a fairly common side effect from several medications.

Also known as photosensitivity, having an increased sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays can lead to premature sunburn, skin damage, and in worst cases … skin cancer.

Several types of antibiotics, antidepressants, stimulants to treat attention deficit and hyperactive disorders, and pain medications can place you at risk for photosensitivity.

To counter these effects, limiting your time outdoors is one way to avoid it, but making sure to apply sunscreen, wearing a wide brimmed hat, and donning light, cool, clothing covering as much skin as possible is a realistic way to tackle the potentially destructive effects of the sun’s UV rays.

Aside from medications inhibiting the body’s natural cooling abilities or increasing the effects from photosensitivity, some people are just more prone to heat related illnesses and exposures.

Coupled with taking certain medications, they can be even more prone injuries as a result. Among them are the elderly, young children, and people of any age who are mentally impaired.

Whether it be due to physical limitations, body composition, or an inability to recognize and address symptoms signaling heat-related issues, these groups need more direct observation and attention to address items they, themselves, might not be able to overcome alone.

They live among us as family, friends, or neighbors. With that, it’s even more important to check on them often and assisting them as needed to avoid heat-related illnesses.

On a final note, it is very important to never abruptly stop taking prescription medications without first discussing it with your doctor.

While there can be many side effects from the drugs you take, the risks of stopping certain medications suddenly can have even worse consequences.

While most side effects most can be prevented, some can be unbearable which makes it even more important to share your concerns with your doctor so they can help address these issues. Regardless of what medications you take, make sure your doctor has an updated list so all side effects and added precautions can be taken.

Odessa, TX

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