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Medications can make your body more vulnerable to heat

Know your risk, and create a plan for extreme heat events
Registered Pharmacist Michelle Gray of Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy in Kimberley.

Extreme heat is hard on everyone. No matter your age or health, it’s important to take heat warnings seriously and pay special attention to your body.

“Staying hydrated is key. During heat waves, adding electrolytes to your water is a good idea, but watch out for products with too much sugar,” says Michelle Gray, pharmacist and owner of Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy in Kimberley.

Michelle recommends TRU Me Electrolytes and Metagenics Electro-Plus individual packets, as well as these tips for heat emergency planning:

  • If you don’t have air conditioning, ensure you have a method to monitor the temperature in your home.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, stay with friends or family, visit a municipal cooling shelter or spend time in an air conditioned shopping mall or library.
  • Create a care network with neighbours, and check in on each other during heat emergencies.
  • Drink more water, even if you’re not thirsty (unless you have a medical condition with fluid restrictions).

Medications and heat

“Some medications make it more difficult for your body to adapt to heat. If you’re unsure if one of your medications will increase your sensitivity to heat, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Don’t stop taking any medications, unless directed by your doctor or pharmacist,” Michelle says.

During the 2021 heat dome, people with pre-existing medical conditions and living in the community (not in supported care facilities) were most disproportionately impacted. Many were socially isolated and not well connected to the medical system.

“It’s important to remember that the relationship between medication, hot weather and negative health impacts is not straightforward. Heat illness may occur in anyone, not only those taking these medications,” Michelle says.

Medications that impair the body’s ability to cool itself:

  • Beta blockers like metoprolol or bisoprolol, which are used to treat certain heart conditions and high blood pressure.
  • Antihistamines, including over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.
  • Medications with anticholinergic effects, including oxybutynin (medication for urinary incontinence) and benztropine (medication for Parkinson’s disease).
  • Some antidepressants (e.g. amitriptyline or nortriptyline)

Medications that cause low blood pressure can be worsened by hot temperatures:

  • Medications for heart disease (e.g. nitroglycerin and calcium channel blockers).
  • Medications for high blood pressure (e.g. ACE inhibitors).

Medication that can increase body temperature:

  • Antipsychotic medications (e.g. risperidone, olanzapine, or quetiapine)
  • Stimulation medications for attention disorders, such as amphetamines (e.g. Dexedrine® or Adderall®)

Medications that can cause dehydration, or are affected by dehydration:

  • Diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide).
  • Laxatives (e.g. Senokot®)
  • Some diabetes medications (e.g. canagliflozin or empagliflozin) increase the elimination of bodily fluids.
  • Some antidepressants (e.g. fluoxetine or venlafaxine) can cause excessive sweating, which can lead to dehydration.
  • Lithium
  • Some antiepileptics (e.g. phenytoin)
  • Warfarin
  • Digoxin

“Heat illness can be fatal and urgent medical attention may be needed. If you’re unsure, speak to a primary care provider to get more information,” Michelle says.

Learn more about preparing for heat events on the BC Centre for Disease Control website.

Find Gray’s Compounding Pharmacy at 417B 304th St. on Highway 95 in Kimberley, open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Get in touch at 250-427-0038 or at