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Extreme Heat And Prescription Medications Can Be A Recipe For Heat Stroke
As temperatures hover around 110 degrees this week, patients are pouring into Valley hospitals complaining of heat-related illnesses.
The first question Dr. Frank LoVecchio at Banner Poison Drug and Information Center says he asks after a patient complains of light headedness, fatigue and feeling thirsty:
"Are you drinking alcohol or taking any prescription medications? Any type of opiate medication for pain relief? Sleeping aides? Ambien or Valium, (which are) sometimes used for anxiety?"
Next, he asks whether the patient is taking antihistamines, like Benadryl, Claritin or Allegra.
Among allergy medications, he is most concerned if the antihistamine is a drowsy formula.
He moves on to anti-psychotics such as Lithium, Zyprexa or Risperdal. Then, he asks about anti-depression medicines like Elavil or Sinequan.
He said he's concerned about these drugs when it's hot outside because, "All of these medications affect the way we sweat and the way our body gets rid of heat."
Other drugs, including diuretics for high blood pressure and kidney or liver disease can cause dehydration in extreme heat, while illicit drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine interfere with the body's ability to regulate its own temperature.
LoVecchio said all of these drugs, whether over-the-counter, prescribed or illicit, can usher in a series of symptoms.
"The first signs of heat-related illness are feeling light-headed, tired, feeling thirsty," he said.
As symptoms evolve into feelings of disorientation and confusion, patients run the risk of heat stroke.
"We take that very seriously," he tells his patients.
Because, he said they often don't realize, "that your brain doesn't tolerate extreme heat for all that long. And, without cooling you down fairly rapidly, it could lead to permanent brain damage or permanent disability."
For that reason, he warns people check their current medications for heat interactions when temperatures swell outside.