Ouch! Are My Meds Making Me Sun-Sensitive?

close up of african american woman wearing sunglasses(BlackDoctor.org) — Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, or “photosensitive.”

Symptoms of a photosensitivity reaction include redness, warmth, blisters, swelling, and sometimes rash. Prescription medicines most often responsible for photosensitivity reactions include the antibiotics tetracycline, cotrimoxazole, and ciprofloxacin. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin, nabumetone and diuretics (water pills) such as hydrochlorothiazide can also be responsible, among others.

There are also many ingredients in over-the-counter products can cause photosensitivity reactions as well including bergamot oil, mint or citrus fragrance, and coal tar, a common ingredient in eczema and dandruff products.

Other over-the-counter culprits include pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen; itch-stopping creams containing diphenhydramine (Benadryl cream); and acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide (Oxy 10, Clearasil Maximum Strength).

Additionally, some herbal products may also cause photosensitivity reactions, such as St. John’s wort, anise, dong quai, and Tribulus terrestris.

Prevention Tips

To prevent photosensitivity reactions, try to avoid sun exposure between 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. If you must be outdoors, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that protects against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays) with an SPF of at least 15.  You should also wear a hat with at least a 4-inch brim and wear protective clothing made of tightly woven, preferably dark, fabric. Tanning beds should also be avoided because they carry the same risks as outdoor sun exposure.

If you’re taking a medication that warns against sun exposure, make sure that you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you have, and steps you can take towards preventing any adverse reactions.

By Dr. Crystal Riley, BDO Pharmacy Expert

A graduate of the Howard University School of Pharmacy, Dr. Crystal A. Riley has spent the majority of her career involved in drug information services for not only healthcare organizations and practitioners, practitioners, but for patients as well. While her career has shifted towards researching healthcare policy and quality standards, Dr. Riley still actively seeks opportunities to keep patients informed and aware of medication-related issues to help improve their overall quality of life.