Phototoxic Medications Increase Your Sensitivity to Sunlight

At least 387 different medications can cause phototoxic or photoallergic reactions.  As we hit the peak of summer weather,  it is important to take precautions when seeing an auxiliary label on your prescription warning of sun exposure.  These colourful warning labels put on your prescription are important.  The sun warning label is usually bright yellow with an image of a sun.  Anti-inflammatory medications fall in this group, such as naproxen seems to have the greatest impact. Other medications used by many of our blog followers that can increase sun sensitivity include sulfasalazine and hydroxychloroquine.  Methotrexate can cause a reaction known as radiation recall,  causing irritation in areas where you have had a past sunburn.

Protecting yourself from the sun calls to mind the famous phrase: SLIP, SLAP, and SLOP.  Slip on a long sleeve shirt and pants that are photoprotective, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and slop on sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater.  Sunscreen should be applied at least 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and needs to be reapplied throughout the day, especially after swimming or excessive sweating.  We advise looking for sunscreens that have been endorsed by the Canadian Dermatology Association, which will be evident on the label. Of course, seeking out shade is key, especially during the peak sun hours of 11AM – 4PM.

If a sun sensitivity reaction happens,  seek medical attention as prescription medication may be needed to combat the reaction.

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

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