Fun in the sun can sometimes be limited by medications that interact with sunlight exposure. Some medicines contain ingredients that may cause photosensitivity, this means increased sensitivity to sunlight that can cause sunburn-like symptoms, a rash or other unwanted side effects. (Food and Drug Administration). Photosensitivity can occur after exposure to ultraviolet light – either natural sunlight or artificial light, such as a tanning bed.
There are many types of medicines that can cause sensitivity to the sun, including the following antibiotics: ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, levofloxacin, ofloxacin, tetracycline, trimethoprim. Other commonly taken medications such as ibuprofen, oral contraceptives, retinoids, glipizide, Benadryl, and simvastatin can also cause photosensitivity. Not all people who take or use the medicines mentioned will have a reaction. Also, if you experience a reaction on one occasion, it does not mean that you are guaranteed to have a reaction if you use the product again (Food and Drug Administration).
To reduce your risk of photosensitivity, try the following:
- When outside, seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – some organizations recommend as late as 4:00 p.m. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays may be stronger when reflected off water, sand, and snow.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats to limit sun exposure.
- Use a broad sunscreen regularly and as directed. Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. An SPF 15 is the minimum number needed to provide measurable protection.
These precautions can help with enjoying your time in the sun. If you have concerns about your medications and the possibility of a photosensitivity, your health-care provider or pharmacists will be able to help.
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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April 8, 2023
November 8, 2023