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Higher temperatures on hot days can put you at even greater risk if you take any of these common medications. SimpleImages/Getty Images
  • Certain types of medications can make people more prone to heat-related illness.
  • These include diuretics, beta-blockers, anticholinergics, and antipsychotics.
  • They can cause dehydration, a lack of sweating, and problems regulating temperature.
  • It’s important to keep cool and drink plenty of water during hot weather.
  • If you experience symptoms of heat-related illness, seek medical assistance right away.

While the hotter summer months can represent fun in the sun for many of us, a heatwave can turn deadly for others, especially if they are using certain types of medications.

Medications that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, allergies, and mental health disorders, among others, may put you at risk for being sensitive to high temperatures.

If you aren’t careful, you could develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke, which is the more serious of the two, can lead to permanent disability or even be fatal. Both require immediate first aid.

Sazan Sylejmani, PharmD, an experienced Pharmacy Manager and owner of Westmont Pharmacy, told Healthline there are four important types of medications that can increase your sensitivity to heat.

The first of these is diuretics, which are medications that increase how much you urinate. You might also have heard them referred to as “water pills” since they help eliminate fluid retention in your body.

Diuretics are often used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions since they can reduce the amount of fluid in your blood vessels, leading to less pressure against their walls.

According to Sylejmani, some common examples of diuretics are furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide.

Another type of medication that can make you more sensitive to heat is beta-blockers.

Since they help the heart beat more slowly and with less force, these medications are most often used to treat irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, but they have a range of other applications, including the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Some common examples, per Sylejmani, include metoprolol and propranolol.

A third type of medication he mentioned was anticholinergics.

These drugs work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, making them useful in treating conditions like overactive bladder, incontinence, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Oxybutynin and benztropine are examples of anticholinergics.

Finally, Sylejmani spoke about antipsychotics.

Antipsychotic medications are used to treat schizophrenia and other mental health conditions since they are capable of targeting certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

He listed risperidone and olanzapine as two medications belonging to this class.

Dr. Paunel Vukasinov, who is with Medical Offices of Manhattan and is a contributor to LabFinder, explained that the ways these medications put you at risk during hot weather really comes down to three things.

“These medications can impact the body’s ability to regulate temperature, impact the body’s ability to sweat, or lead to worsening dehydration,” he said.

When it comes to diuretics, which cause you to shed excess fluid, if you are also sweating a lot, he said this “can worsen [dehydration] by further removing sodium and water from the body which can lead to complications including low blood pressure and even passing out.”

Sylejmani added that the problem with beta-blockers is they reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood. This can impair your body’s natural ability to dissipate heat and cool itself.

Regarding anticholinergics, Vukasinov said they affect your ability to sweat.

“[T]he core body temperature can rise, which can be further exacerbated by hot weather conditions,” he stated.

Sylejmani further explained that antipsychotics can interfere with our body’s ability to regulate its own temperature, putting people at risk.

“By understanding the interplay between medications and hot weather, patients can better manage their health and minimize risks associated with extreme heat,” said Sylejmani.

He suggests taking the following steps in order to play it safe when temperatures soar:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If you’re taking medication, talk with a healthcare professional for an individualized fluid intake recommendation. “Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can further dehydrate you,” said Sylejmani.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This will allow air to reach your body and evaporate your sweat, allowing you to cool off.
  • Stay in cool, shaded, or air-conditioned areas as much as possible. If you don’t have an air conditioner at home, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests checking with your local health department to see if there are shelters in your area. Malls or public libraries can also be safe spaces to seek refuge from the heat.
  • Monitor yourself for signs of heat-related illness. These include excessive sweating, confusion, dizziness, or headaches. “[S]eek medical attention if symptoms appear,” Sylejmani advised.
  • Consult with your doctor about adjusting your medication. “They might adjust dosages or advise timing the medication differently to reduce risks,” he said.

When temperatures rise during the summer, it can put people who use certain medications at risk.

Medications like diuretics, beta-blockers, anticholinergics, and antipsychotics, in particular, may be problematic.

These types of medications can cause dehydration, lack of sweating, or problems with regulating body temperature, which puts people at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Experts say it’s important to keep your environment cool, drink lots of fluids, and seek medical assistance if you experience any of the warning signs of heat-related illness, including excessive sweating, confusion, dizziness, or headaches.

You may also need to speak with your physician about making adjustments to your medication during the hotter months of the year.