National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Heat and Mental Illness
The mercury's rising across the country, and with the rising temperature comes increased risk of a potentially fatal illness: heat stroke.
But, did you know that mental illness and some medications used to treat mental illnesses actually increase the risk for heat stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to properly cool itself. Normally, the human body will regulate temperature by sweating, but heat stroke impairs the body's ability to do this. If heat stroke is not treated immediately, it can cause permanent disability and even death.
Disturbingly, individuals with mental illness may be particularly susceptible to heat stroke. Certain medications, including anti-psychotics and anti-cholinergics, are known to increase the risk for heat stroke because they inhibit the body's ability to regulate its temperature.
Additionally, people with mental illnesses who live in low-income housing without air conditioning are also at an increased risk for heat stroke. This combination can be dangerous; during a 1999 heat wave in Cincinnati, Ohio, almost half of the 18 heat-related deaths were individuals with a mental illness.
To help protect yourself or a loved one from the dangers of heat stroke, take a look at our list of do’s and don’ts for the hot summer days ahead.
For more information about heat stroke, visit the Center for Disease Control’s Web site or talk to your physician about the risks of some psychiatric medications and heat stroke.