August 11, 2006

Hyperthermia Can Be a Serious Risk for Those with Schizophrenia

A 41 year old woman diagnosed with schizophrenia died of hyperthermia (over-heating) in her home last week. Her daughter believes her schizophrenia prevented her from realizing she was too hot, and taking "normal" steps to cool down; like use the fan she had in her apartment, which was not on when they found her. But not only are the symptoms of schizophrenia a danger, but the medications used to treat them can increase risk.

People suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often have distortions of reality, which can include body sensations. This, combined with sensitivity to dehydration due to medications, can make a hot day a serious risk.

Almost all the classic antipsychotic medications given to treat schizophrenia pose an increased risk for dehydration and ultimately hyperthermia. A side effect coping packet from the Zyprexa website outlines steps to prevent this serious health risk:


Hyperthermia is a medical term that means “getting overheated.”
Overheating is a serious side effect of medicines that can lead to dehydration
(your body loses too much water). It’s most likely to happen when the
weather is hot and you’re doing activities outside, or when you’re exercising.
You can prevent overheating by following these measures:

• Drink plenty of water (4 to 8 cups each day)
• If you do any activities outside, stay in the shade and wear clothing that
will keep you cool (a hat and light-colored, lightweight clothing)
• Do outside activities in the early morning or early evening when it’s cooler
• If you exercise, drink fluids and take breaks to cool down

Overheating is a serious side effect, so it’s important to follow the measures
above to prevent it. If you begin to feel hot, dizzy, and weak, go inside a
building that has air conditioning, or cool yourself by taking a cold shower
or bath.

PDF for Side Effect Coping Packet


"Daughter links mother's death to schizophrenia" August 9th 2006


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