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Some Medicines Can Worsen Heat-Related Problems

Sultry conditions can be dangerous for other groups

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management today issued an excessive heat warning through Friday.  Temperatures are expected to reach into the upper 90s and even quite possibly 100 degrees or higher.

Becuase of projected high levels of ozone, the state Department of Environmental Proection is advising members of "sensitive groups" - the very young, the very old and those with asthma or other respiratory problems - to avoid strenuous activity between the afternoon and early evening hours.

In addition, the NJ Poison Experts are reminding the public that with a heat warning in effect, the potential for someone developing heat-related illness increases significantly.  Often referred to as “heatstroke” or “sunstroke,” heat-related illness occurs when a person’s body temperature rises to a dangerous level.  Factors such as underlying medical problems, dehydration and medication usage all play a role in heat-related illness. 

Human beings can reduce their body temperature in various ways, the most obvious of which is sweating.  On hot, humid days, the increased moisture in the air slows the evaporation of sweat.  When sweating is not adequate to cool your body, your temperature rises, and you may become ill. 

It is important to remember that the elderly, the very young, those with chronic illnesses, and pets are at greatest risk for developing heat-related illnesses.  In addition, certain medications increase one’s risk.  By knowing who is at risk and what prevention measures to take, heat-related illness and death can be prevented.

Medications, which increase the risk of developing heat-related illness, include but are not limited to:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline- ElavilR, imipramine- TofranilR, etc)
  • Antihistamines (diphenhydramine- BenadrylR, chlorpheniramine- Chlor-TrimetonR)
  • Diuretics (furosemide- LasixR, hydrochlorthiazide, DiurilR)
  • Antipsychotics (haloperidol- HaldolR)

Tips to prevent heat illness:

  • Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting, open-woven clothes.
  • Wear a vented hat in the sun to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.  Don’t forget sunscreen!
  • Drink extra water (fluids) all day and less tea, coffee, cola and alcoholic beverages!  Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink–it may be too late!
  • During outdoor activities, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water or other fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Reduce or schedule outdoor activity for cooler times of the day, before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
  •  If you have a chronic medical problem, ask your doctor about how to deal with the heat.

Call the NJ Poison Experts at 1-800-222-1222 if you have any questions regarding heat-related illnesses.  If you suspect someone may be suffering from a serious heat-related illness, call 911 and immediately go to the emergency room. 

In addition, the NJ Poison Experts are always here to help with accidents or questions involving medicines, chemicals or household products, etc.  Help is available in over 150 languages; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.  Program the Poison Help line (800-222-1222) into your cell phone and post it near your home and office phones too. 

There are no silly questions and trained medical staff are always available to answer a question, quell a fear, provide advice, or intervene to get emergency services on site and prepped to provide the needed protocol in the fastest response time. When in doubt, check it out—prevention is truly the best possible medicine. 

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