Summer is already arrived for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere and the hottest days are yet to come. In addition to taking anti-viral precautions, there are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to storing and taking prescription and over-the-counter medication on vacations or in hot climates. Here’s what you need to know about heat and medication.
Most medication, unless otherwise stated, needs to be stored at room temperature. Some medication requires refrigeration. It’s important to always check the medication insert about how to safely store your medication. Room temperature is considered 68 to 77 degrees. If medication is exposed to temperatures above 86 degrees, it could potentially harm its potency. That’s one of the risks when it comes to heat and medication.
If you think your medication has been exposed to high temperatures, make sure to check. Look for signs such as yellowing and or crumbling. It’s always better to err on the side of safety, so if you suspect your medicine has been exposed to heat, it is best to not take it. Just make sure to correctly dispose of the old, damaged medication.
Drugs that are particularly susceptible include antibiotics and hormone medication. Anti-seizure medication, oral chemotherapy drugs and others are also on the list. Antibiotics, for example, when exposed to heat won’t work at full strength to fight bacteria. In fact, this can actually cause the bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotic, making the infection even worse.
Additionally, diabetics wearing an insulin pump should change their insulin more regularly if spending more time outdoors in the heat. Insulin is very sensitive to high temperatures.
Mistakenly, many people store their medication in the bathroom. Due to the humidity from the shower and sink, bathrooms are often the hottest and most humid rooms in the house. Pharmacists suggest finding the coolest room in the house and storing it in a closet such as a linen closet.
Make sure to use an insulated bag when transporting medication and never store drugs in the car. Cars get extremely hot during the spring and summer months.
Medication and sunlight
Some medication can cause you to have reactions when exposed to the sun. The sunlight can change how the medication is absorbed and reduce its effectiveness. This puts one at risk for sunburn, inflammation, eczema or rashes.
Always check your medication to ensure that it doesn’t interact with spending time outdoors. You can also reduce your risk by wearing protective clothing and sun cream. Elderly people should avoid or limit time in the sun.
Body temperature and medication
Seniors can have trouble regulating their body temperature during the summer months. The addition of certain medications can make matters even worse. Certain drugs such as Haldol and Risperdal actually block signals to the brain about the body’s rising temperature. Beta blockers prevent the release of excess heat by reducing blood flow to the skin. Some antidepressants can reduce sweating. Antihistamines also keep you from sweating due to their drying effect.
Not sweating or regulating your body temperature properly can put you at risk of dehydration and heat stroke. It is especially important to keep your eye on seniors; they often won’t necessarily notice that they are overheating until they experience more serious symptoms. These symptoms may include nausea/vomiting, confusion and fainting. Look out for reduced sweating and make sure they are drinking cold water regularly and are out of the sun.
The summer brings with it a lot of excitement. It is important to first understand how best to look after our health through correct medication usage and storage. Be sensible in the sun and make sure that seniors (and small children) are taking the appropriate precautions.
Click here to read our 5 tips for better sleep while traveling.