Psychiatric Medicines Can Affect How You Cope With Heat

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - A warning for anyone taking a psychiatric medication, many of these medications increase the body's sensitivity to the heat and sun.

And they can make you particularly vulnerable during a heat wave.

And, just being in the sun for as little as 30 minutes can cause a variety of allergic skin reactions and other side effects.

The heat is on in East Tennessee.

We've experienced above average temperatures for most of the summer, and while most of us have adjusted well... Some people may not be able to, and there's a reason why.

Taking psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, can inhibit the body's ability to sweat.

"And sometimes it's even how they allow you to react to the heat, so some people will become sensitive to heat itself not even just the sun, because they don't allow you to sweat,” says Dr. Michael Green.

Photosensitivity is the result of drugs combining with proteins in the skin to form substances which react with direct light.

Being in the sun for as little as 30 to 60 minutes can cause allergic skin reactions, severe sunburn, nausea and vomiting, flushed or pale skin and confusion and fainting.

"Certainly, you can go outside, you just need to be careful about during the heat of the day in the direct sunshine, you're going to build up more heat,” Dr. Green says.

Some anti psychotics make the skin more susceptible to sunburn.

And some antidepressants inhibit the body's ability to sweat.

Some, but not all, "There are different classes of anti depressants. The type of antidepressants that heat issues could be involved with are usually the older anti depressants."

If you're not sure whether a medication you take can cause heat or sun sensitivity, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

They may advise you to avoid the sun for as many as four to six weeks.

Whether you take a psychiatric medication or not, you should avoid excessive heat, stay indoors with air conditioning or a fan.

If you're outside, stay in the shade.

And remember to drink water and maybe even sports drinks to help you replenish fluids lost to sweating.

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