Look for Drugs and Conditions

Representative image

Record-Breaking Heat Wave Poses Serious Health Risks Across the U.S.

A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping across the United States, subjecting the Northeast and Midwest to dangerously high temperatures and oppressive humidity. Experts warn that everyone is at risk for heat-related illnesses as body temperatures rise. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps are common consequences of overheating. Prolonged outdoor exposure can also lead to heat rash or severe sunburn, known as sun poisoning. “Sadly, heat-related deaths and illnesses happen every year,” said Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Vulnerable populations include children, older adults, individuals with chronic illnesses, the disabled, people without air conditioning, and those who spend significant time outdoors. Symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke can encompass painful cramps, fever, rapid heart rate, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, weakness, confusion, agitation, lethargy, hallucinations, delusions, and seizures. Without treatment, these conditions can lead to coma or death.

To stay safe during this heat wave, weather and health experts recommend several measures. People should reduce, eliminate, or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities to the coolest parts of the day. Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors is advised.

Avoiding direct sun and sunburn, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoiding sugary drinks and alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration, are also crucial.

Eating light meals to avoid raising your body temperature, applying sunscreen liberally and frequently when outside, ensuring pets have plenty of fresh water, and keeping them indoors in air-conditioned areas as much as possible are important steps.

Never leaving children or pets in parked cars, which can reach deadly temperatures quickly, is essential. Directing portable electric fans away from yourself if the room temperature is over 90 degrees, as this can dehydrate you faster, and checking on older, sick, or frail neighbors who might need help coping with the heat are also recommended.

Calello highlighted the heat risks associated with certain prescription and illicit drugs. “Heat stroke can occur not only from high temperatures but also from certain therapeutic medicines, recreational legal drugs, and illegal substances,” she noted.

These substances can inhibit the body's ability to cool down through sweating, leading to serious complications such as drug-induced fever, dehydration, and death. Medications like antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, antipsychotics, and stimulants can increase susceptibility to heat-related issues. Calello advises individuals to consult with their doctor, pharmacist, or regional poison control center to understand if their medications heighten their heat sensitivity.

Illicit drug users might not recognize the onset of heat-related illnesses. “Excessive heat combined with substances like ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and heroin can be deadly,” Calello said. “Being under the influence of these substances can make it hard to recognize symptoms of overheating.” As the heat wave continues, it is crucial to take preventive measures and stay informed to protect yourself and others from the potentially deadly effects of extreme heat.

Be first to post your comments

Post your comment

Related Articles

Ad 5