Heat-related Conditions

Persons who live on the streets or in shelters are at increased risk for dehydration in warmer climates, particularly during summer months. Be aware that diuretics can exacerbate dehydration and that limited access to water or bathroom facilities may interfere with treatment adherence. Work with service providers in your community to assure that homeless people have easy access to potable water and restrooms. Avoid prescribing diuretics if the patient does not have easy access to a restroom or will not be able to return for laboratory tests necessary for monitoring them. Read more about this and other practice recommendations for homeless patients with cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, hyperlipidemia and heart failure in the HCH Clinicians’ Network’s Adapting Your Practice Series.

Healing Hands Newsletter

  • Exposure-related Conditions: Symptoms and Prevention Strategies (2007) – Exposure-related conditions are a constant reality faced by homeless individuals who spend most days and many nights outside. Without shelter against the elements, they are dependent on mild temperatures and dry weather for a tolerable existence. And while some people who live on the streets may have tents or cardboard structures to provide a modicum of protection and privacy, they are still susceptible to hypo- or hyperthermia as well as associated maladies including frostbite, sunburn, and heat exhaustion. Those who are very young, old, malnourished or exhausted are at increased risk of serious health problems from exposure to temperature extremes. This issue discusses signs and symptoms of cold- and heat-related pathologies and how to prevent them.

The Health Care of Homeless Persons (2004)

This easy to use and read manual is designed for clinicians and shelter staff. Sections cover communicable diseases and infections, major medications, heat-related conditions and cold-related injuries, emerging challenges, management of chronic illnesses, immunizations, food management in shelters and soup kitchens, and fact sheets in English and Spanish for clients.

Additional Resources

  • Extreme Heat | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – This webpage includes tips and a prevention guide, general information about extreme heat, and links to resources for health professionals.
  • Heat Wave: A Major Summer Killer | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Brochure that covers heat disorder symptoms, first aid and safety tips, heat index chart, and how heat affects the body.
  • National Weather Service website
  • Hot Weather Health Tips | Milwaukee County