Risks for some medications rise as temperatures climb

Some drugs, taken in a heat wave, can provoke serious, sometimes life-threatening reactions. When the temperature rises, they can impair the body's ability to cope with heat.

Some drugs, taken in a heat wave, can provoke serious, sometimes life-threatening reactions. When the temperature rises, they can impair the body's ability to cope with heat. "Everyone who takes medications, whether they are OTC or prescription, needs to consider that their medication can put them at risk once summer arrives," says Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and interim director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment. "Heat waves are getting worse with climate change," Bernstein says. "We need to be mindful when medications mix with heat. Too much heat can make an otherwise safe and effective drug dangerous." Consumers should be especially vigilant when starting a new medication in the summertime, says Bernstein, as the risk of heat reactions is higher and as the body is unaccustomed to a new drug and needs time to adjust. Few studies have examined the dangerous interaction between drugs and heat, and experts say more are needed. "Due to the lack of research in the field, it is impossible to estimate the scale of the problem," says Ying Zhang, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. "However, it is for sure that climate change will bring more health problems due to medications. Older adults will be especially vulnerable because they usually take more than one drug."