Excessive Heat Poses Increased Risks for Individuals with Behavioral Health Conditions

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The Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is issuing a heat advisory to alert the nation to the increased risk of heat-related illnesses for individuals with mental and substance use disorders.  Children and older adults with these conditions are particularly vulnerable to elevated temperatures.

Exposure to excessive heat is dangerous for all American citizens and can lead to heatstroke which is considered a medical emergency.  Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature-regulating system breaks down and the body is unable to cool itself.  Internal body temperatures can rise to levels that may cause irreversible brain damage and death.

Individuals with behavioral health conditions who are taking psychotropic medications or using certain substances are at a higher risk for heatstroke and heat-related illnesses.  These medications and substances can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate heat and an individual’s awareness that their body temperature is rising.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), effective methods to prevent heat exhaustion include drinking plenty of fluids, replacing salt and minerals that may be removed from heavy sweating, wear loose light-colored clothing, wear sunscreen, stay cool indoors with air conditioning, and monitor those at high risk.  For individuals who may be living in facilities, ensure that they are well hydrated, have access to cooler areas, and monitor temperature levels, especially for those individuals who may be taking antipsychotic and anticholinergic medications.

–SAMHSA

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