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Photosensitivity What it is and How to Stay Safe NEXT ARTICLE 

Photosensitivity What it is and How to Stay Safe

At the end of spring, when warm weather looks like it is finally here to stay, store shelves are lined with an overwhelming selection of sunscreens. Besides protecting your family from sunburn, premature aging, and (most importantly) skin cancer, you may have a fourth reason for purchasing plenty of sunscreen this summer –photosensitivity.  
What is Photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity (or sun sensitivity) is when sun exposure combines with certain medications to cause painful skin inflammation, similar to sunburn. The rash, while very uncomfortable, typically clears up fairly quickly once the medication is discontinued and cleared from the body. This can occur regardless of age or how long you have been taking a medication and is linked to a variety of different drugs.
Which Medications Cause Photosensitivity?
Our prescription savings card can make your medicines cheaper, but it’s important to be aware of their side effects. The following medications are more likely to cause sun sensitivity than other drugs:

  • Acne treatments, particularly prescription retinoids, but also over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, can cause photosensitivity.
  • Antibiotics, particularly the commonly prescribed Bactrim or sulfamethoxozole trimethoprim, can cause photosensitivity.
  • Allergy medications, specifically oral antihistamines, can affect the body’s ability to sweat, which can lead to a sun/heat-induced skin reaction.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), both prescribed and over-the-counter, can cause differing levels of photosensitivity.
  • Vitamins and herbs, specifically St. John’s Wort and Niacin, have been linked to photosensitivity.

How Can Photosensitivity Be Prevented or Treated?
First, never skip a dose of a prescribed treatment because you plan to go sunbathing. Instead, speak with your pharmacist about your sun exposure, particularly if you are planning a beach vacation or another similar summer activity while taking a medication or a supplement.
Second, check the drug label. Drugs with serious sun interactions should have those side effects listed on the label. Please take those warnings seriously and use precaution to avoid a reaction.
Third, use common sense and protect your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
  • Use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity.
  • Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

As you enjoy the sunshine this summer, take care to protect yourself from overexposure and skin damage. If you are currently taking one of the medications listed above, you have an additional reason to be careful. FamilyWize encourages you to stay safe in the sun this summer! And to save on prescription costs all year round, download our free pharmacy discount card.
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