Healthbeat: Effects of sun on prescription and over-the-counter medication

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When you think about summer sun safety, preventing a routine sunburn may come to mind. But there is another health issue concerning the effects of the sun and it has to do with the medication you’re taking.

Several over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause toxic and allergic reactions. Knowing what you’re taking and how it interacts with ultraviolent light can help prevent a trip to the doctor’s office.

Oh those sunny days of summer so many of us look forward to. But too much fun in the sun coupled with certain medications can trigger serious side effects.

It can cause what’s called photosensitivity a condition resulting from the sun’s ultraviolet rays while taking many common medications including blood pressure pills.

“Oh, no. I didn’t know that. Oh my gosh. No, ’cause I just started the blood pressure medication. No, that’s good to know,” said Deborah Williams.

Harrold’s Pharmacy owner Bruce Lefkowitz sifted through a long list of medications whose chemicals absorb UV light and can cause photosensitivity. Antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and oral contraceptives all fall in that category. But even over-the-counter medication like antihistamines or pain relievers could increase side effects to the sun.

“If the skin gets affected dramatically, it can lead to major problems,” said Dr. Nancie Fitch from MedExpress Urgent Care.

MedExpress Urgent Care physician Nancie Fitch says that could include heat rash, sun blisters, or even heatstroke. You can help protect yourself with the obvious: sunscreen.

“Sunblock that blocks UVA, UVB that’s important. The highest SPF that you can find” stated Dr. Fitch.

That may mean wearing sun-protective clothing or even staying out of the sun as much as possible.

“If you have questions about your medication, ask the pharmacist because we know about different side effects and interactions with the sun can be a huge side effect,” said Bruce Lefkowitz, owner and pharmacist at Harold’s Pharmacy.

Photosensitivity can occur at any time of year but it’s much more common in summer. It’s also more common in men.

To learn more about photosensitivity and how to avoid it you can head over to the CDC website.

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