Many Medicines Spark Nasty Sunburns

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Dear Pharmacist,
I just started taking “doxycycline” for acne.  The prescription label says to “avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight” and the guys in my apartment are razzing me because I won’t play tennis with them anymore.  My room mate says he took doxycycline before going on a cruise and nothing happened to him.  He bet me $100 to go outside for an hour, to show me that I won’t get a sunburn reaction.  Should I?
– CN, Gainesville, Florida

Answer: Don’t take the bet because if you lose, you lose big time.  Only you, not your room mate, run the risk of turning into a blistering red-faced Gator.  Photosensitivity is a fairly common skin reaction that is sparked by taking medicine that interacts with the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It happened to me, luckily just on the top of my hands and I can tell you the burning pain of it, and associated pins and needles sensation rendered me out of writing commission for two days.

Photosensitive reactions are very unpredictable. Some people get severe sunburns and brown splotches in their skin, some get redness, tenderness, a rash, hives, or other types of  inflammation (such as swelling or generalized pain), while others, like your goading  buddy, experience no reaction whatsoever. Some skin reactions are permanent. Also, just because you do not have a problem with medication now, doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing every time you take it.   See why I told you not to take the bet?!

There are hundreds of other offender drugs, here are some relatively common ones:

Antibiotics:  Sulfa drugs, tetracycline, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin and nitrofurantoin

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds:  Elavil, Norpramin, Sinequan, Effexor, Zoloft, Remeron and Xanax

Accutane and Retin A used to improve skin

Allergy meds: Zyrtec, Benadryl, Claritin

Blood pressure pills: Capoten, Vasotec, Accupril, Altace, diltiazem, nifedipine

Diabetic drugs:  Glipizide, glyburide, tolbutamide, glimepiride

Birth control pills or menopausal drugs

Statin cholesterol drugs:  Mevacor, Pravachol, Zocor

Diuretics: HCTZ or furosemide

Anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs:  Ibuprofen, naproxen and prescribed agents

If you are taking a medication that causes photosensitivity, please plan ahead by using sunscreen  and wide-brimmed hats as well as clothing that covers you up well.  If you happen to get a mild reaction, and it’s a small area,  try applying aloe right from the plant. You can also rub pure essential oil of lavender on it.  This almost instantly relieves the pain and speeds healing. Make a cool compress with a few drops of lavender oil in it, or a compress with baking soda to help take the sting out of the burn.  You can bathe in  oatmeal (Aveeno bath packets)  or apply a pain-relieving spray like Solarcaine or Dermoplast.

Did You Know?

Cooking with fresh rosemary herb could very well protect against breast cancer and reduce inflammation.