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Your Medications and Photosensitivity

Did you know some medications can cause sun sensitivity or a condition referred to as photosensitivity? 1 There are two different severity levels to this.

  1. Photoallergy: An allergic reaction from the sun that can take several days to appear on your skin.
  2. Phototoxicity: When your skin is irritated from the sun within hours of sun exposure.

Certain medications can increase your chance of experiencing this condition.

What medications can cause this?

Common medications that can cause photosensitivity include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungals
  • Antihistamines
  • Diuretics
  • Acne medication
  • Birth control
  • Mental health medication
  • Some herbal supplements

*This is not a complete list of medications that can cause sun sensitivity.

Why does this happen?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), chemicals in these types of medications can cause chemical changes in your skin.

Is there anything else that may increase my risk?

Medication is not the only thing that can make you photosensitive.

Certain conditions can cause you to be extra sensitive to the sun like:

  • Lupus
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema

Review this for a full list of conditions that can cause photosensitivity.

Skin care products can have the same potential reaction including 2:

  • Retinols
  • Glycolic acid
  • Benzoyl peroxide

How can I protect myself from the sun?

Here are some easy ways you can reduce your risk of any sun sensitivity side effects. 3

Sun Safety infographic

Read your medication labels. Medications will warn you of sun sensitivity on the labels. Some have directions for how long you should wait to go outside after taking your medication.

Use sun protection. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and wear protective clothing like hats and long sleeves.

Stay out of the sun at its peak hours. This is generally between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Protect yourself in shaded areas. Staying in the shade will help limit direct sunlight exposure.

Drink plenty of water. Some medication can dehydrate you so it’s important to drink plenty of water.

Avoid tanning. Tanning beds can trigger photosensitivity through the ultraviolet (UV) radiation it projects.

If you are an ExactCare patient and have questions about your medication, call us at 1-877-355-7225. Our pharmacists are here to help!

1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22613861/

2 https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/photosensitivity

3 https://www.purdue.edu/uns/html4ever/0009.Newton.photosensitiv.html

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