Thanks to thermoregulation, your body maintains a fairly steady core temperature. When you get cold, your thyroid releases hormones that speed up your metabolism, your muscles produce heat by shivering, and your blood vessels constrict to keep your blood away from your skin and closer to your inner core.
On the other hand, on a hot summer day in Florida, the opposite occurs — your metabolism slows, your sweat glands release perspiration to cool you down, and your blood vessels widen to direct heat away from your core.
Unfortunately, some medications can override thermoregulation and put you at risk for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even sunburn.
With offices in Weston, Davie, and Pembroke Pines, Florida, Dr. Hector Fabregas and our experienced team at Healthstone Primary Care know a thing or two about heat-related health problems. A University of Florida study shows that 215 Floridians died of heat-related illnesses between 2010 and 2020 — 38 were children, and 27% were seniors.
Unfortunately, many heat-related health problems worsen due to medication. As part of our primary and geriatric care services, we help our patients manage their medications, including evaluating them for side effects like heat stroke.
In this blog, we explain how medications affect thermoregulation, which medications pose a heat stroke risk, and how we can keep you safe.
What is heat stroke?
As a Floridian, you’re probably accustomed to our extreme summers. You know that even a few minutes outside can zap your energy and trigger profuse sweating.
But heat stroke is different than feeling warm or overheated — it’s a serious medical condition that requires emergency care. With heat stroke, your thermoregulation system shuts down, and your body temperature spikes to 106° F in a matter of minutes.
You feel confused and dizzy. You may slur your speech, have a seizure, or lose consciousness. Heat stroke can be fatal if you don’t get immediate medical attention.
The heat also causes other issues:
- Heat exhaustion: a response to heat and dehydration
- Rhabdomyolysis: a life-threatening condition that can be caused by working in excessive heat
- Heat syncope: heat-related fainting
- Heat cramps: which occur when heat and dehydration lead to muscle cramps
- Heat rash: red bumps on the skin
If you experience a heat-related health problem, call us right away. We can assess your condition and restore your body temperature to prevent complications.
How medications can lead to heat stroke
Medications play a critical role in your health care, but some have side effects that require your attention — especially if you live in a hot state like Florida. Even some over-the-counter medications can make you more susceptible to heat. Here’s how.
Medications that lower your blood pressure may also remove essential electrolytes from your body, which makes you vulnerable to heat stroke. If your medications list diarrhea or vomiting as a side effect, those symptoms can also lead to dehydration and heat stroke. Even caffeine and alcohol can compromise your ability to stay cool.
Sweating is one of your body’s ways of cooling you down, so if you take a medication that hinders your ability to perspire, heat stroke could be a side effect. Anti-depressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, and Parkison’s disease medications fall into this category.
Decreased blood flow
Beta-blockers and some blood pressure drugs constrict your blood vessels, making it harder for your body to cool down.
Increased drug concentration
Taking a medication that requires a precise dose while dehydrated alters the effective concentration level of the drug in your system. The higher dosage can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, exacerbating the problem and putting you at risk for heat stroke. Blood pressure medications in patch form and anti-seizure, bipolar, and heart disease medications can become too concentrated if you’re dehydrated.
Elevated body heat
While some medications make it tough to cool down, others, like Adderall, Ritalin, and illegal substances like ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamine, elevate your body heat.
Don’t stop taking your medication just because it puts you at risk for heat stroke. Dr. Fabregas can advise you on managing your medications and staying safe despite the temperature.
If you suffer from a heat-related illness or would like more information about managing your medications and avoiding heat stroke, call us today to schedule an appointment at any of our three locations. You can also request an appointment online.