Editorial: Prescription for trouble
We are right in the middle of summer and the temperatures confirm it. According to National Weather Service forecasts, we will be flirting with 90-degree highs for at least the next several days.
We have also had several days of poor air quality over the last few weeks, due to ozone pollution brought on by hot sunny days. There will surely be more to come.
Each of these factors is can adversely affect those who are very young, elderly, or suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma. Even healthy children and adults who are active outdoors should exercise some caution.
One factor that can exacerbate the risks of very hot weather is the use of prescription medications. Some can cause those using them — particularly senior citizens — to be prone to heat-related illnesses.
When you feel hot, your body cools off by increasing blood flow to the skin and perspiring. Some drugs may interfere with this process and cause a body to overheat, sometimes with serious or deadly consequences.
Antidepressants and antihistamines may prevent sweating.
High blood pressure drugs — beta blockers — and over-the-counter decongestants (ephedrine/pseudoephedrine) can decrease blood flow to the skin, preventing the body from cooling down.
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.
Early signs of dehydration and overheating include dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache or changes in speech or behavior.
Some tips to be safe include drinking plenty of fluids, but avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
If you must work outdoors, use a buddy system and take frequent breaks.
Don’t forget about your pets. Make sure they have plenty of cool water and a shady place to rest.
And never, ever leave anyone or any pet in a hot car — even for a few minutes.