Health Alert: When Hot Weather and Medications Don't Mix

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Tonya Anderson's counting down to September.

The Tri-State's upcoming heatwave already has her taking cover.

"One time I thought I was having a heart attack," Anderson said. "I came to the hospital, and it was due to the heat."

Anderson, 48, is battling high blood pressure and diabetes. There are some medications that make people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. They include certain blood pressure medications, especially diuretics (water pills).

Certain psychiatric medications also block the body's message to the brain regarding the elevated temperature. Stimulants and decongestants actually reduce blood flow to the skin.

"If you've got bad blood vessels or you're on medicines, it can impact that blood flow," says Dr. Naaman Bell with St. Mary's Medical Center. "It's going to impair your ability to get that blood out there and radiate the heat the way it should."

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department has these "Heat Buster" tips:

  • Those most at risk of being harmed by extreme heat are children under 5 years of age; adults 65 and older; people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes and asthma; obese people; and people on diuretics, antidepressants and tranquilizers.

  • If you do not have air conditioning, use a fan to keep air circulating. This is not helpful, though, when the temperature is above 90 degrees or the humidity is above 35 percent.

Anderson's already resigned herself to the fact that it's going to be a long, hot summer.

"On the weather, it says it's going to be 99 degrees on Friday," she says. "That's really hard for people who are on this kind of medication. It pretty much limits them to what they can do."

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