Allergic drug reactions are health hazards


A wide range of drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, are known to cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. Photosensitivity is also triggered by ingredients commonly found in perfumes, cosmetics, and even sunscreens. Even brief exposure to sunlight in warm or cold weather can cause intense cutaneous [skin] reactions in patients with drug-inducted photosensitivity, and some patients may continue to be sensitive to sunlight long after stopping use of the offending agent, according to a recent report in The Medical Letter (14 April 1995).

Photosensitivity occurs with offending agents either topically applied or taken systemically. One type appears as small skin eruptions in areas exposed to the sun, though they often spread to unexposed areas. It is an allergic reaction which may not appear for 24 hours or longer after exposure to sun.

Another type of photosensitivity is a phototoxic reaction which can damage skin tissue. Unrelated to allergy, this response occurs at first contact within hours of exposure to sunlight, is dose related and feels like burning or stinging of skin prior to the appearance of sunburn. It has been described as a severe sunburn.

The Medical Letter published a long list of agents known to cause photosensitivity. Some include:

Anticancer drugs (Eulexin, Velban, Fluoroplex, and others);

Antidepressants (Elavil, Nardil, Tofranil, Desyrel, and others);

Antihistamines (Periactin, Benadryl, and others);

Antihypertensives (Procardia, Cardizem, and others)

Antimicrobials (Declomycin, Vibramycin, Maxaquin, tetracycline, and others);

Antidiabetics (Diabinese, Orinase, and others);

Diuretics (Diuril, Lasix, and HydroDIURIL, and others);

Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatories (Motrin, Indocin, Feldene, Naprosyn, and others);

Sunscreen ingredients (aminobenzoic acid in PABA and 405 Solar Cream, benzophenone in Bain de Soleil, Solbar, and others, PABA esters in Tropical Blend, PreSun, and others);

Perfume, shaving lotion, and cosmetic ingredients (6-methylcoumarin, musk ambrette, Bergamot oils, oils of citron, lavender, lime, sandalwood, cedar, and others);

Other drugs, such as Retin-A, oral contraceptives, pHisoHex, Librium, and Xanax.

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