Summer heat puts extra stress on people with certain conditions

As Oregon enters a week of possible record heat, let’s look at some tips to stay cool, especially for people with certain medical issues.

“Heat poses special problems for people with heart conditions, diabetes and other diseases,” said Dr. George Waldman, associate medical director at CareOregon. “Be sure to ask your doctor how to manage your condition when temperatures get above 80.”

Some diseases and medicines raise the risk of heat stroke. Here’s what to look for.

Medical conditions

The heart is the center of our cooling system. Heat stresses the hearts even of healthy people. People with certain conditions need to be extra careful in the heat.

  • Beta blockers can slow down the body’s cooling system for heart patients.
  • Diabetes causes poor circulation, which also makes it hard for the body’s cooling system.
  • Kidney disease might mean you can’t drink more water to keep cool.

Medications

Your medicines also may affect your body’s natural cooling.

  • Diuretics remove fluid and sodium. If you are sweating and taking diuretics, add a little salt to your diet.
  • Some antidepressants and antihistamines can block sweating, so drink extra water to keep cool.

Check the labels on your medications and testing supplies. Some say to store items below 80 degrees.  Keep them in a cool place and out of your car.

Fluids

Be sure to drink water throughout the day. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

“Tap water is the ideal and cheapest fluid to get hydrated,” said Dr. Waldmann. “Bottled water and so-called ‘sports drinks’ and ‘energy drinks’ are no better than water straight out of the tap and not worth the extra cost.”

Avoid sweetened or alcoholic beverages, which are dehydrating.

Warning signs

Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, weakness or nausea can mean heat exhaustion. Drink water, take a cool shower, to get a ride to some air conditioning.

If you find you aren’t sweating anymore, this could mean heat stroke. Call 9 - 1 - 1. Other signs include fever above 103 degrees, rapid shallow breathing, weak and rapid pulse and confusion.

Stay safe

Water in and on your body helps you fight the heat. Try a cowboy-style wet kerchief around your neck. Cool showers and cloths help too.

Check on family, friends and neighbors, or ask them for help when it’s just too hot. Get yourself or others to a mall, library or other community space with air conditioning to stay cool.  

Resources:

Dial 211 or go to 211.org for cooling centers near you.

Top 5 Health Articles