Fentanyl is an opiate (narcotic) pain reliever typically prescribed to people for severe, ongoing pain or after surgery. This medication is 50 times stronger than heroin and, needless to say, it can be very addictive.
Fentanyl can be delivered in many different ways – including IV, intranasal, lozenge, pill and transdermal patch forms. Currently, the most frequently prescribed form of fentanyl (in the US) is the transdermal patch. Patients place one patch an area of the body and it’s worn for a period of up to three days; the medication is absorbed by the skin at a slow, steady pace over those 72-hours.
Too Hot to Handle
Fentanyl’s high potency makes it dangerous, so the dosage needs to be monitored closely and never exceeded. Unfortunately, when using a fentanyl patch, high temperatures can make this process a little tricky.
When you get hot, your pores open to cool your body through sweating. This process increases blood flow to your skin, which results in increased absorption of the drug. It’s a process that can quickly be fatal.
Because of this danger, doctors warn anyone wearing a fentanyl patch to exercise caution in situations that increase body temperature. Our normal skin temperature is just under 90 degrees. If this increases to 102, the fentanyl absorption rate can quadruple in less than 30 minutes!
If you use a fentanyl patch, avoid the following dangerous situations:
- Hot Weather: Extremely warm temperatures in summer and early fall can easily result in overdose. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, keep your body cooled with fans and loose clothing. And if you’re wearing a fentanyl patch, it’s definitely not the time for sunbathing.
- Heating Pads: Those struggling with pain often use heating pads for relief, but combining a heating pad with a fentanyl patch can be fatal. The added heat can skyrocket the dosage released. Using a heating pad on other parts of your body (especially if you fall asleep with it on) can also raise your overall body temperature. To play it safe, avoid the use of heating pads or electric blankets.
- Whirlpools and Saunas: While these pampering luxuries sound inviting, they’re way too hot for anyone wearing a fentanyl patch. Sitting in a hot tub or sauna (or even a long, hot bath at home) quickly raises your body temperature, rapidly elevating the amount of medication in your body. If you get the opportunity to relax in one of these spots, do so when you aren’t wearing the patch.
- Fever: In some cases, the rise in body temperature might not come from an outside source. When you’re ill, your body temperature increases internally due to fever. Let your doctor know if your temperature increases. Adjustments to your medication need to be made to avoid serious side effects.
Additional Reading: The F-Word: 3 Fast Fentanyl Facts to Remember
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