Stay Out of the Sun! If You Take These Medications, You’re Better Off in the Shade
While the warm weather and sunshine is tempting you to head for the great outdoors this time of year, remember to double check your sun protection must-haves. We all know to remember our SPF, a hat, and maybe even protective clothing, but it’s also important to check your prescriptions before heading into the sun. Certain medications can amplify the sun’s effects and cause severe damage to skin and eyes.
What is Photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity is when there is a chemically induced change in the skin, like sunburn, blistering, or a rash from a prescription medication.1 Two types of photosensitivity can happen on certain medications, photoallergy and phototoxicity;
- Photoallergy: an allergic reaction of the skin and may not occur until several days after sun exposure
- Phototoxicity: an irritation of the skin and can occur within a few hours of sun exposure
While Phototoxicity is a more common reaction to prescription medications, both reactions can occur from natural sunlight or artificial light as both are ultraviolet.
What Types of Medications Cause Photosensitivity?
The list of medications that cause photosensitivity is long, but there are a few common medications that are frequently prescribed that you may not know cause photosensitivity. Here are a few that you may have in your medicine cabinet today:
Doxycycline Monohydrate is used to treat common bacterial skin infections such as acne and rosacea while also used to treat urinary tract infections.2 Exposure to sun while taking this medication may result in skin rash, itching, redness of the skin, or sometimes severe sunburn.
Cetirizine is used to treat allergy symptoms such as watery eyes, itchiness, runny nose and sneezing3 and may cause increased sensitivity to the skin to the sun, especially for prolonged periods of exposure.
Simvastatin is used to reduce the amount of cholesterol made by the liver and commonly taken by those with bad cholesterol.4 Exposure to the sun while taking certain cholesterol drugs may result in adverse side effects relating to the skin.
Hydrochlorothiazide is used to treat high blood pressure, preventing strokes, heart attacks, and kidney problems.6 Some people taking this medication may be more sensitive to sunlight than they are normally.
Retinoids, such as Acitretin, usually prescribed by dermatologists, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.5 Avoiding excessive sun exposure, whether natural or from tanning beds, is an important precaution to take while taking retinoids.
How Can I Protect Myself from the Sun if I’m Taking These Medications?
Not everyone taking these medications, or others that may cause photosensitivity, will experience a reaction to the sun. To reduce your risk of a reaction, follow these steps;
1) Throw Some Shade
The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. When available, seek shade while you’re outdoors. Hike on tree-covered trails or pitch a tent or umbrella on the beach.
2) Lather Up
Remember to lather up any areas of the body that could be exposed to the sun with an SPF value of 30 or higher. When reapplied as recommended on the bottle, sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
3) Dress to Impress
Grab your favorite face-shading hat, some sunglasses, and lightweight clothing that covers your chest, arms and legs. Take your sun protection a step further with UV protection clothing.
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