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Excessive Heat Exposure Can Pose Higher Risk for Residents on Psychotropic Medications

Friday, July 22, 2016
Take Simple Precautions to Avoid Heat Related Illness or Death

Contact:  Phyllis Jones, Public Information Officer
(202) 673.1937 desk  (202) 631-3077 mobile

Washington, DC— As the District prepares for temperatures over 95 degrees, the Department of Behavioral Health is reminding everyone that these conditions can present higher risk of heat –related illnesses for those with psychiatric  conditions.   Certain psychiatric medications can impact a person’s awareness that body temperature is rising as well as interfere with the body's ability to cool itself by sweating.  Some people with mental illness also suffer from chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity or high blood pressure, which further increase the risk.

“Heat related illness or death is preventable,” said Tanya A. Royster, MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health.  “We encourage everyone who takes certain psychotropic medications to follow simple precautions that can lessen your risk.”

The Department of Behavioral Health is  monitoring the air conditioning at licensed homes.  DBH also is reminding  community based mental health providers to pay close attention to consumers for signs of heat-related illness and to check on those who are at higher risk.  

Prevention Guide for Staying Healthy During Extreme Heat

·         Stay Cool IndoorsAir-conditioning is the number one protection against heat-related illness and death. If your home is not air-conditioned, visit a public facility—such as a library—that is air-conditioned especially during the mid-day hours.

  • Drink plenty of fluids no matter your activity level.  Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.  Avoid liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar because they cause you to lose more body fluid.  Avoid very cold drinks which can cause stomach cramps.  Consult with your doctor, if you have been told to limit the amount of fluids you should drink.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
  • Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours if possible.
  • Use a buddy system. Heat-related illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you know someone 65 years of age or older, check on them at least twice a day.  If you are in this age group, have a friend or relative call you twice a day.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals which add heat to your body.

For more information including cooling centers, swimming pools and where to call for help, go to the District’s Heat Emergency Plan at