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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
View a prevention guide to avoid health-related illnesses.

As the District continues to experience record high temperatures, the Department of Mental Health is reminding everyone that these conditions can present higher risks for those who are taking psychotropic medications. These medications can interfere with the body's ability to regulate heat and an individual's awareness that his or her body temperature is rising.  Also, people with mental illness often suffer from chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity or high blood pressure, which further increases the risk.

The Department of Mental Health encourages people who take certain medications to follow simple precautions that can lessen the risk of heat-related illness or death. In addition, the Department reminds community based mental health providers to pay close attention to consumers for signs of heat-related illness. 

Prevention Guide for Staying Healthy

  • 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. Also, avoid very cold drinks which can cause stomach cramps.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
  • Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours if possible.
  • Use a buddy system. Heat-induced 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 during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals which add heat to your body.
  • 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.

For more information on how to prevent, recognize and treat heat-related illness, go to