ADHD Medication & Summer Heat – Part I

Know ADHD Med Side Effects:
Many ADHD medications increase one’s sensitivity to the sun and heat, increasing chances of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you, or your loved one, are taking medication for ADHD, check the listed side effects, for heat sensitivity. Even if heat sensitivity is not a listed side effect, you still need to take caution. As medication interacts with the body, it is not unusual for there to be unlisted, unintended, sometimes serious, side effects.  Interaction with the body’s sensitivity to sunlight, heat, and medication can be benign, to quite dangerous. Certain classes of medications can also cause a higher risk of sunburn, skin rashes, or skin irritations due to the body’s interaction between the medication and sun exposure. Some medications, when combined with heat/sun exposure, can impact the body’s ability to retain water and to cool itself off naturally. One’s sense of thirst may be dulled, interfering with the body’s ability to sweat, or turning up the body’s heat production, decreasing the body’s ability to protect itself from heat exposure or heat stroke.

Health Conditions & Heat Sun Sensitivity:
Taking medication for the following conditions may increase sun & heat sensitivity:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • OCD

Additionally, some medications for the following conditions may also increase sun & heat sensitivity:

  • acne and anti-aging skin
  • allergies
  • arthritis
  • bacterial infections
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • heart arrhythmia
  • high blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel disease
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain and fever
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • psoriasis
  • overactive bladder
  • stomach ulcers

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Symptoms:

Symptoms of sun & heat sensitivity  are similar to those of sunburn: an itchy, burning and/or stinging feeling, followed by a redder than normal looking burn. If you don’t have any reaction the first time you’re exposed to the sun, while taking medication, this does not mean you don’t have heat sensitivity. One’s reaction time to sun and heat exposure can increase with additional exposures, as your body becomes more sensitized.
Heat stroke is a dangerous condition because it can occur suddenly and be fatal.  Heat exhaustion is a precursor to  heat stroke, but allows one a little more time to address the issue and prevent heat stroke. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke both occur when the body is exposed to high temperatures and there is insufficient fluid intake. While heat stroke is most often associated with hot weather, it is also a risk under normal summer conditions for many taking medication.

Know the Warning Signs:

Call 911 immediately if:               

  • symptoms listed under heat exhaustion, are extreme, or worsen, despite efforts to relieve symptoms

  • victim is pale, not flushed, and is not sweating

  • the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure

  • the victim’s temperature rises above 102 F

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • heavy sweating

  • paleness

  • muscle cramps

  • sudden fatigue

  • weakness

  • dizziness

  •   headache

  • nausea or vomiting

  • fainting

The skin may be cool and moist, the pulse, fast and weak, and breathing may be fast and shallow.

Heat exhaustion, left untreated, may progress to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. It occurs when the body’s temperature control system can no longer function so shuts down, and the body’s internal temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Care:

Help the victim away from the heat source, or out of the sun and help the person cool down and restore their body’s balance of fluids by:

  • Put a cool (not cold) wet cloth on their head and neck, and under armpits

  • Give them a cool or tepid drink of water and/or Gatorade        

  • Take the victim’s temperature. If above 100 degrees F. Have them soak in a cool tub

  • Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour

What Medications are of Most Concern?

Those with ADHD need to be aware that stimulants speed up the body’s heat production, making it harder for the body to cool itself down. ADDers need to take extra precautions to avoid overheating, when out in the sun.

Additionally, be aware that over the counter diuretics rid the body of sodium and water, causing dehydration, so also can put one at risk for heat/sun sensitivity.

Medicinenet  has a very comprehensive list of medications which can cause one to be particularly susceptible to sun sensitivity. Be sure to check their list for your medications. To be safe, speak to your health care provider, or your pharmacist,  about your medications and possible interactions with the sun and heat. Lastly, always read the medical insert that comes with all medications for information on side effects and drug interactions.

Be Proactive!

If you take one of the medications listed, which can increase sensitivity to sun and heat, it is imperative that you proactively avoid heat exhaustion. The best way to do this is to create a plan, specific for your circumstances, and acquire the tools to implement that plan, to keep yourself cool and avoid becoming overheated at all.

ADHD Medication & Summer Heat – Part 2 explores the many tools available to help stay cool. Choose the ones most appropriate for you, purchase and store them all together for easy access, whenever the temperature soars over 85 degrees or you are working outside in the summer sun.


  • “Drugs that intensify sun and heat.” (accessed July 19, 2010)
  • “Heatstroke: Risk Factors.” (accessed July 19, 2010)
  • “Sun-Sensitive Drugs (Photosensitivity to Drugs).” (accessed July 19, 2010)
  •  “Understanding Sun Protection Clothing”


About addcoach1

This internet blog is written by Regina Cashman, M.A., an ADHD Coach with a nationwide internet practice. Regina previously worked as a Medical Psychotherapist for Human Developmental Services before opening her private practice as an ADHD LifeCoach, helping to manage the multiple interventions and psycho-education of those with ADHD. Regina's website, ADDCoach Services, is found at Appointments are by video chat. ADD Coach Services helps individuals with ADD/ADHD, and those who love them, navigate the ADD maze so as to Master their ADD, rather than be mastered by it. Please provide comments and feedback!
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6 Responses to ADHD Medication & Summer Heat – Part I

  1. jayne cashman says:

    your awesome

  2. lstene says:

    My family and I love being outside in the sun biking, swimming, and gardening. I will be more likely to tune into my body’s reaction to the heat and sun this summer, knowing that I could be more sensitive or develop sensitivites due to my ADD medication. I can educate and empower my medicated ADD children as well. Thanks!

  3. jeff says:

    That’s a lot of info. Great post. I always new antibiotics could cause problems with the sun but because my kids aren’t on ADHD meds I never thought about it. Makes sense.

  4. Noe Riblett says:

    heat stroke is deadly that is why i always hydrate myself if the sun is shining so much.,

    Our very own homepage

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