Study links common medications to risk of serious dehydration

  • Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, and in severe cases, hospitalization.
  • A study found that risks of serious dehydration and heat strokes were higher in patients taking certain commonly prescribed medications.1
  • Medications cited included painkillers, and drugs used to manage heart and kidney diseases.1

The body needs to be properly hydrated with plenty of fluids in order to work properly. When it doesn’t get enough fluids, dehydration sets in and could cause a number of bothersome symptoms, including headache, fatigue, and in severe cases, hospitalization.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. On top of this, certain medications often prescribed for elderly patients are thought to exacerbate their risk by affecting how thirsty they feel, or how much blood can flow through their veins.1,2

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics by Dr. Kalisch-Ellett and colleagues, common medications such as painkillers or treatments for heart and kidney diseases were found to increase the risk of serious dehydration in elderly patients by as much as 2.8-fold.1

The study looked at medical records of 6,700 elderly patients hospitalized for dehydration, heat stroke, or exposure to excessive natural heat.1

After a simple before and after comparison, the rates and risks of hospitalization for heat-related illnesses were significantly higher with several common medications.1

Meds with heat stroke risk2.png

Bottom line

  • Bear in mind the risk of severe dehydration tied to these classes of medications. Generic names of medications are listed below. These are not all the medications belonging to the classes of medications reported in the study. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
  • Over the summer months when the risk of dehydration seems to be at their peak, consider talking to your doctor about cutting back on medications that you or a loved one might not need.
  • Personally, I’d skip a dose of Advil if I haven’t been drinking enough water. A headache caused by dehydration can be particularly nasty, even if you are not 60+.

Source study: Kalisch-Ellett, et al. J Clin Pharm Ther. Published online: July 4, 2016. A paid subscription may be required.

DVA = Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA); ACEI = angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor; ARB = angiotensin 2 receptor blocker; NSAID = non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

List of generic drug names: Accuretic (hydrochlorothiazide/quinapril), Capozide (captopril/hydrochlorothiazide), Lotensin HCT (benazepril/hydrochlorothiazide), Accupril (quinapril), Capoten (captopril), Lotensin (benazepril), Vasotec (enalapril), Exforge HCT (amlodipine/valsartan/hydrochlorothiazide), Tribenzor (olmesartan /amlodipine/hydrochlorothiazide), Coreg (carvedilol), Inderal (propranolol), Lopressor (metoprolol), Sectral (acebutolol), Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), Celebrex (celecoxib), Motrin (ibuprofen), Acova (argatroban), Coumadin (warfarin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Nitrol (nitroglycerin).

Reference: 1. Kalisch-Ellett LM, et al. J Clin Pharm Ther. Published online: July 4, 2016. 2. Hajat S, et al. Lancet 2010;375(9717):856-63. 3. Faes MC, et al. Geriatr Aging 2007;10(9):590-6.

Photo adapted from original by Stock Photos for Free, used under license.

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