All Posts tagged medication safety

Medications that Make You Sensitive to the Sun

Medications that Make You Sensitive to the Sun

Everyone knows the dangers of sunburn. However, did you know that for people taking certain medications, there is an entirely different sun disorder to worry about? Photosensitivity is an inflammation of the skin caused by the combination of sunlight and certain medications. While photosensitivity might look like sunburn, it’s actually quite different. There are two types of photosensitivity – phototoxic and photoallergic.

In a phototoxic reaction, the drug absorbs UV light and then releases it into the skin, causing cell damage. This causes a rash on sun-exposed skin, which typically clears up after the drug is out of your system. In a photoallergic reaction, UV light actually alters the structure of the drug, which makes your body think the drug is an invading force. Therefore, it produces antibodies against it, which cause inflammation of the skin in both sun-exposed and non-sun-exposed areas.

One additional factor to consider when taking certain medications is sensitivity to heat. Certain medications affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature, meaning that you could quickly become overheated and suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In severe cases, this can lead to organ failure or death.

Luckily, just because you are taking medications that make you sensitive to the sun does not mean you have to stay sequestered. Simply using plenty of sunscreen, frequenting shady areas, and avoiding outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day can keep you safe and sound.

Here is a list of common medications that cause problems in the sun. If you are taking one of these, ask your home health nurse for more information about how to stay safe. He or she can better explain the side effects of sun sensitivity as well as come up with a plan to keep you protected.

Heat-Sensitivity Drugs

Phototoxic Drugs

Photoallergic Drugs

Allergy drugs (loratadine, promethazine) Antibiotics (quinilones, tetracyclines, sulfonamides) Sunscreens (para-aminobenzoic acid, oxybenzone, cyclohexanol, benzophenones, salicylates, cinnamate)
Muscle spasm drugs (atropine, scopolamine) Antihistamines (diphenhydramine) Anti-microbials (chlorhexidine, hexachlorophene, dapsone)
Belladonna alkaloids Malaria medications (quinine, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine) Painkillers (celecoxib)
Mental illness drugs (thioridazine, chlorpromazine, prochlorperazine) Cancer chemotherapy drugs (5-fluorouracil, vinblastine, dacarbazine) Cancer chemotherapy drugs (5-fluorouracil)
Major tranquilizers (phenothiazines, butyrophenones, thioxanthenes) Cardiac drugs (amiodarone, nifedipine, quinidine, diltiazem) Fragrances (musk, 6-methylcoumarine)
High blood pressure drugs (mecamylamine ) Diuretics (furosemide, thiazides)
High blood pressure drugs (beta blockers) Diabetic drugs (sulfonylureas)
Migraine drugs (triptanes) Painkillers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
Ephedrine/pseudoephedrine (OTC decongestant, Sudafed) Skin medications (photodynamic therapy for skin cancer)
Cocaine Acne medications (isotretinoin, acitretin)
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drugs (amphetamines) Psychiatric drugs (phenothiazines, tricyclic)


Preventing Falls in the Home: Medicines

Preventing Falls in the Home: Medicines

Part 3 in a series. Click here to read part 1 on Home Modifications and part 2 on Exercise.

One often overlooked area of fall prevention is medication. 75% of older adults take one or more prescription drugs, and 25% take five or more drugs regularly. While most medications do not typically cause problems, there is always a risk that any new medication can cause severe side effects. These side effects, such as dizziness, weakness, vision impairment, or sleepiness can contribute to the risk of a senior falling. What’s worse, aging affects the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of medications. Age can also increase sensitivity to potential side effects.

In particular, antidepressants, pain medications, antipsychotics, and antihypertensives put seniors at the biggest risk. Even some over the counter medications, such as diphenhydramine and naproxen, have side effects which can affect patients. Additionally, if a senior is taking several of these drugs at one time, they can interact with one another negatively.

Always follow your doctor’s advice when taking your medications, and let your doctor know if you feel any side effects from your meds. Follow the rest of these tips to keep yourself safe and lower your risk of falling due to medication.

Tips for Preventing Medication-Related Falls

  • Ask your pharmacist to review your prescriptions to ensure they won’t clash with each other. This is standard procedure, but if you are receiving prescriptions from two different doctors, they may not realize what the other doctor is prescribing you.
  • Never take someone else’s medication! You don’t know what effect it will have on you.
  • Use a magnifying glass to read prescription labels. Taking the wrong pill or the wrong dose could lead to disastrous consequences.
  • Use a tablet box to keep your pills organized. This will decrease your chance of mixing things up and also of missing doses.
  • Whenever starting a new stress or anxiety medication, also be sure to take extra caution. These medications in particular can mess with your perception, mood, and reflexes. Monitor your condition and if you feel like the new pills are making you too sluggish, immediately alert your doctor.
  • Keep a list of all your current medications with you. Since you may receive different prescriptions from different doctors, they might be unaware of what the other one has prescribed for you. Having a list will keep them up to date and aware of potential problems.
  • Ask your doctor if you can wean off of any medications that are giving you side effects. While some medications are vital for survival, many others can be adjusted or switched out for less harmful meds. See if you have any of these options available.
  • Be aware of all the possible side effects you may experience with a new prescription. You may be able to prepare for some of the side effects. For example, if a particular prescription increases your need to use the restroom, be sure to have a night light on so you can see the way to the bathroom at night.