Hot Meds: 10 Medications Affected By Extreme Heat

xtreme Heat graphic

“Mom, is it hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?”

“Yes,” I replied, wondering whether this question was more rhetorical, or, whether my 9-year-old daughter was really looking to try frying that egg.

As we head into July in San Antonio, Texas, temperatures will soar, forecasted to average a daily high around 95 degrees.

With this temperature hike comes different warnings we’re all fairly used to hearing: Be careful not to overheat, wear sunscreen, and never leave a dog or child alone in a hot car.

But here’s a heat warning you may not be as familiar with: Keep a close eye on your prescription and over-the-counter medications and where you’re storing them.

I sometimes keep a stash of allergy medication in the glove compartment of my vehicle. My mom always keeps a little aspirin in her vehicle’s glove compartment, she says, in case she or someone with her suffers a heart attack while she’s driving.

According to the City of San Antonio website, when the outside temperature reaches around 93 degrees, the inside temperature of a vehicle can spike to to 125, within 20 minutes!

Storing meds in a hot car can cause some major changes in those medications, quite possibly putting your health in danger.

Dr. Stephen Dinger of Advanced Pain Management and Schertz Pharmacy says heat can alter the effectiveness of some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.

“Pharmaceutical manufacturers recommend most of their products be kept at a controlled room temperature which is about 66 to 77 degrees,” says Dr. Dinger.  He says meds containing proteins are most at risk for being altered in extreme heat, and often, you can’t tell just by looking at the medication.

A few storage places that are subject to extreme heat, in addition to a vehicle, include the medicine cabinet that’s located in a bathroom that includes a shower (think humidity), a non-air conditioned home such as a cabin or tent, and, suitcases left for long periods of time on some airplane or vehicles, especially if they’re not in use.

10 Medications Affected By Extreme Heat

  1. Antibiotics Extreme heat might cause antibiotics to decay, resulting in upset stomach, or even, kidney damage.
  2. Birth Control “Medications containing hormones are sensitive to extreme heat,” says Chandra Johnson, Pharmacist-In-Charge at Schertz Pharmacy. Hormone medications are often protein-based.  When protein gets hot, its properties can change.
  3. Insulin If you are diabetic, you might carry and insulin cooler during summer months.  Insulin contains protein and when its heated its potency can change.
  4. EpiPen When it comes to safely storing an EpiPen, an injector that uses epinephrine to treat allergic reactions, the auto-injectors should be kept in their carrier tubes at 77 degrees.  They should not be stored in refrigerators or glove compartments.  Before using an EpiPen, it’s suggested you check for discoloration, which could be a sign of a loss of effectiveness due to extreme heat or light.
  5. Aspirin and Ibuprofen When it comes to aspirin, watch the heat.  If you’ve been outside all day or your body temperature is increased by a good run and then you go to reach for an aspirin, you could be putting yourself at risk.  Aspirin and Ibuprofen are part of an anti-inflammatory drug family called NSAIDs.  They can be affected by your hydration level.  Risks include problems like heat stroke and kidney failure.
  6. Nitroglycerin Nitroglycerin is sometimes taken by those with a heart condition.  It can degrade quickly, if exposed to high temperatures of light.  Dr. Dinger says in cases where you’re unsure, it’s always best to call your Physician or Pharmacist.
  7. Allergy Medications (Diphenhydramine) Some allergy medications, such as Benadryl, taken in extreme heat conditions can actually decrease your body’s ability to sweat, which could increase the risk for your body to overheat.
  8. Diagnostic Strip Tests Common test strips including those to detect blood sugar levels and pregnancy can be affected by humidity.  Basically, if moisture adheres to the strips, it can dilute the test liquid and possibly give you an incorrect reading.
  9. & 10. Topical Medication Patches (Butrans and Fentanyl) : “The skin can vasodilate with increased temperatures meaning it absorbs more quickly,” says Dr. Dinger. With pain medication such as Butrans and Fentanyl, that can leave a patient feeling dizzy and over-medicated.

In the end, when it comes to medication, both prescribed and over-the-counter, Dr. Dinger says it’s always a good practice to call your Pharmacist or Physician should you have any question about the effectiveness of a medication.

DrStephenDinger-Head-shotDr. Stephen Dinger, D.O. is triple board certified in Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Electrodiagnostic Medicine.  He founded Advanced Pain Management and Rehabilitation with offices in Stone Oak, Schertz, and Downtown San Antonio, in 2012.

Dr. Dinger also owns Schertz Pharmacy located in Schertx, TX.

Savvy Media is proud to partner with Dr. Steven Dinger to bring you the latest information and advancements in pharmaceutical care and pain management.




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