Heat and Medicine, a Dose of Danger for Seniors

A potentially deadly danger lurks in the medicine cabinets of local seniors this summer. Did you know that heat, when combined with certain medications, can seriously harm seniors? That is why SYNERGY HomeCare, one of the nation’s largest non-medical in-home care franchises, with local offices in our area, recommends that families pay special attention to seniors that are taking any medications this summer. Considering the fact that some 80-86% of seniors suffer from a chronic condition or disease that requires medication, the summer heat can pose significant challenges! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seniors are more prone to heat stroke and heat-related stress because their bodies cannot adjust to sudden changes in temperature. Seniors who take certain prescription medications are more susceptible to heat related injuries and illnesses. “During the hot summer months, families really need to pay special attention to their elderly loved ones who are taking medications and may not understand the health risks,” says Rick Basch, President of SYNERGY HomeCare. “We strongly urge families to consult with their doctor or pharmacist regarding the potential impact of heat on any medications. If family members aren’t available, our Caregivers can be an excellent resource for monitoring any potentially adverse reactions to heat that a senior may experience.” Antidepressants and antihistamines act on an area of the brain that controls the skin’s ability to make sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system. If a person cannot sweat, they are at risk for overheating. Beta blockers reduce the ability of the heart and lungs to adapt to stresses, including hot weather. This also increases a person’s risk of heat stroke and other heat related illnesses. Amphetamines can raise body temperature. Diuretics act on kidneys and encourage fluid loss. This can quickly lead to dehydration in hot weather. Sedatives can reduce a person’s awareness of physical discomfort, which means symptoms of heat stress may be ignored. Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine found in over the counter decongestants decrease blood flow to the skin and impact the body’s ability to cool down. “We want to do everything we can to ensure that our seniors don’t make the headlines this summer due to heat-related conditions,” says Basch. “Our Caregivers can be a lifesaver (literally), when it comes to keeping seniors well hydrated, cool and comfortable. They’re an extra set of eyes and when it really counts.”