I spent a week with family in Tucson recently, where it was 114 degrees in the shade. I’m back in Pennsylvania now. Today the heat wave that has steamed the mid-west lately rolls east, with temperatures north of 100 and high humidity. My life consists of an air conditioned home, car, and hospital. I am outside in this “soup” for short walks between these cool venues and for my early-morning jog.
Many of my patients are not so lucky. They live in less optimal environments—especially in summer—and have few options to escape heat. Add to that poor judgment: patients with schizophrenia often overdress and are unable to dissipate body heat. And many psychiatric (and general) medicines impair thermoregulation. Being elderly makes things worse too. When the heat’s on, as it is here today, remember the psychiatric patient, who may need extra consideration for health and safety.
-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry