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Hot Summer Days Can Make Sick People Sicker

Extreme heat can affect anyone, but you don't have to become a victim.

Medical Conditions and Heat Stroke continued...

Remember, heat stroke needs immediate attention. Call 911.

Other Dangers

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke aren't the only risks for people with pre-existing medical conditions. For entirely different reasons, some other conditions are exacerbated by the hot weather of the summer. Some examples are:

  • Asthma. Heat doesn't make asthma worse, at least not directly. But people with asthma need to be especially careful in summer months, since the air can be filled with all sorts of triggers. Allergens like molds and pollens drift in the wind. Irritants, such as environmental pollution, can hang in the air on hot, humid days and make life miserable for people with asthma. These environmental pollutants can cause plants and molds to boost pollen and spore production. The more pollen in the air the more likely it is to worsen allergic diseases such as asthma. In addition, some medications used to treat asthma may make it harder to sweat, and thus interfere with the body's natural cooling process.
  • Multiple Sclerosis. Many people with MS find their symptoms are aggravated by heat. In fact, one of the oldest tests for MS was to put a person suspected of having the disease in a hot bath. If neurological symptoms developed, the doctor made his diagnosis. Anyone with MS should take extra precautions to stay cool.
  • Lupus. About 70% of people with lupus find that exposure to sunlight can cause a flare-up of symptoms, including skin rashes, fatigue, and joint pain. So make sure to cover yourself with long pants and sleeves, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.

Medication and Heat Stroke Risk

It's not just the medical conditions themselves that can raise the risk of heat-related illness. In many people, it's the medicine that is the problem. We've already seen that some of the medicines used to treat conditions, such as heart failure, can cause trouble.

However, medicines for entirely different conditions can aggravate the effects of heat. For instance, a person with an anxiety disorder might never suspect that he or she was at a higher risk of heat stroke. But if he or she is taking a tranquilizer to treat the condition, the body may not be able to cool itself efficiently. Drugs that can increase the risk of heat-related illness include:

  • Some psychotropic medicines, such as Haldol and Thorazine
  • Anticholinergics, such as Cystospaz
  • Beta-blockers, such as Toprol, Tenormin, or Inderal
  • Diuretics, such as Lasix or Maxzide

Not only prescription drugs cause problems -- herbs and other alternative medicines can be risky too.

Alcohol and street drugs also increase the dangers. For one thing, alcohol dehydrates you and can interfere with the body's cooling process. Alcohol and drugs also hinder people's ability to reason clearly, making them more likely to stay in the heat longer than they should.

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