The intense summer heat and the sun have arrived. The National Weather Service expects central Texas to see highs below 100 all week. And that means we should check our medications for any side effects from the heat.
We should all load up on sunscreen, wear sun protective clothing, stay indoors during the heat of the day, and drink plenty of water, but people taking certain medications may be at increased risk of dehydration, sunburn, rashes, and heat. related disease, said pharmacist Jodie Pepin, clinical pharmacy program director for Austin-based Harbor Health.
If you read the handouts that come with prescribed medications, the description of side effects should tell you whether that medication could cause photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun), sensitivity to heat, or dehydration. Bottles should also have stickers stating these warnings as well, Pippin said, but often people don’t think about them unless someone points it out, or they’ve had a bad sunburn, heat exhaustion or heat rash.
The list of these dehydrating, sun- and heat-sensitive drugs includes many common drugs for high blood pressure, diabetes, allergies, and pain relief.
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What medications can increase dehydration?
Becoming dehydrated can cause problems with blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature regulation. Extreme cases can cause brain damage and kidney damage.
Signs include confusion, inability to urinate or dark urine, fatigue, headache, and dizziness.
People taking these drugs need to drink more water than the average person, especially during the summer:
- Diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide, chlorothiazide, furosemide, bumetanide, torsemide). These drugs are designed to remove fluid in the body and are often prescribed for people with heart failure. Sometimes diuretics are added to high blood pressure medications. If your medication has HCTZ after it, it’s high blood pressure medicine along with the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.
- Laxatives of any kind. These cause you to lose water through your stools. If you haven’t had a chance to replenish after taking laxatives, your electrolyte balance and the amount of fluid in your body won’t be right, Pippin said.
- SGLT2 inhibitors for diabetes (dapagliflozin, empagliflozin, canagliflozin). This new class of drugs for people with diabetes also helps with heart failure, Pipino said. Because of the way these drugs work, they are dehydrating.
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What medications can make you more sensitive to heat?
Some medications cause the body not to sweat or reduce blood flow to the skin, reducing the amount you sweat. While people don’t like to sweat, Pippin said, sweating is necessary for the body to cool down.
Stay indoors during the heat of the day or stay in the shade if you’re taking these medications:
- Beta blockers (metoprolol, atenolol, nebivolol, propranolol, nadolol). These are used to control high blood pressure and don’t allow the vascular system to dilate, which is needed to cool you down.
- Decongestants (pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine). Used for colds or allergies, they restrict blood flow, which reduces blood flow to the skin to cool the body.
- Adderall and other stimulants. Attention deficit disorder medications also reduce the ability to sweat.
What medications can make you more sensitive to the sun?
Some medications increase the chances of sunburn or heat rash. Sometimes it’s not clear why these drugs cause the reaction, Pipino said, but when these drugs were studied, that side effect was noted.
- Antibiotics (tetracycline, doxycycline, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, sulfonamides).
- Diabetes drugs that are sulfonylureas (glyburide and glipizide).
- Statins (simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin). These lower cholesterol.
- NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib). These are commonly known painkillers such as Advil, Aleve and prescription Celebrex.
- Antihistamines (diphenhydramine, cetirizine, loratadine, cyproheptadine, promethazine). These are your standard over-the-counter Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin for allergies, as well as some lesser-known antihistamines.
- St. John’s wort and vitamin B6. St. John’s Wort is used for symptoms of depression and menopause. B6 is used to supplement when there is a vitamin deficiency as well as for some anemia and nausea during pregnancy.
- More specialized drugs such as chemotherapy. Everyone is different. Ask your doctor if yours has any side effects such as sensitivity to light.
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