By Camille Gagnon


Extreme heat waves are becoming more and more common in Canada. This not only makes summer less enjoyable but can affect your health. Heat and humidity can cause heat stroke, dehydration, dizziness and fainting, hospitalizations, and even death.

As you get older, it becomes harder for your body to adjust to changes in temperature. This puts older adults at greater risk during periods of extreme heat. What’s more, some medical conditions make it harder for your body to adapt to heat. Two examples, more common in older adults, are diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.


Did you know?

Some medications can increase your risk of heat stroke. Certain commonly-used medications can make you more sensitive to the effects of heat. Below are a few ways medications can make it harder for your body to adapt to heat.

  1. Some medications can hinder your body’s ability to produce sweat. Sweating is essential for cooling down in the heat.
  2. Some medications can make you dehydrated. They do so by making you lose more fluids from your body, such as through sweating or peeing.
  3. Some medications can increase your body temperature.
  4. Certain medications can make you feel sleepy, make it harder to focus, and slow down your reaction time. This can make it difficult to do what is needed to stay safe during very hot weather, like remembering to drink water or stay cool.
  5. Finally, although they don’t directly raise your chances of getting heat stroke, some medications can become toxic to your body and kidneys if you become dehydrated from the heat.

What can you do?


  1. Protect yourself from extreme heat and stay hydrated. Find out more about how to stay cool and hydrated during periods of extreme heat by visiting this website: https://tinyurl.com/safe-in-heat
  2. Review all your medications with a health care professional. Make an appointment with a health care professional specifically for a medication review. Together, you can identify the medications that increase your risk of heat illnesses. You can also create a plan for what to do if you start having signs of heat illness.
  3. Ask your health care professional: “Do I still need all my medications?”—the answer might surprise you! Even if it is not possible to stop or reduce the dose of any of your medications, this discussion is worth having. Making sure you’re taking the right medication, at the right dose, is something we must all do regularly! If you do stop or reduce the dose of a medication, make sure to put a follow-up plan in place with your health care professional.

Discover more resources on using medications safely: DeprescribingNetwork.ca/

Camille Gagnon is the Pharmacist, Assistant Director of the Canadian Medication Appropriateness and Deprescribing Network.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.