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.
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
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.