Travel Health 101: Common Medications That Cause Sun Sensitivity


Did you know that many medications can have negative effects on the skin when it’s exposed to ultraviolet light? This condition, also known as photosensitivity, can cause symptoms ranging from itchiness to an uncomfortable rash, burns and blisters. If fun in the sun is on your summer travel agenda, don’t miss this list of common types of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can trigger photosensitivity from On Call’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nathan.

Common Medications that Cause Sun Sensitivity:

What this is: a reference guide to make you aware of the risks of taking common medications and spending time in the sun.

What this isn’t: an exhaustive list of every type of medication that could have photosensitizing effects, nor is this a list of specific medication names.

    • Acne Medications

    • Antibiotics

    • Antihistamines

    • Cancer Chemotherapy Drugs

    • Cardiac Drugs

    • Diabetic Drugs

    • Diuretics

    • Malaria Medications

    • Oral Contraceptives

    • Pain Relievers (particularly NSAIDS like ibuprofen)

    • Psychiatric Drugs

    • Skin Medications (particularly those containing Vitamin A and Vitamin A derivatives, like Retinol)

    • Blood Pressure Drugs

    • Cholesterol Drugs

    • (Some sunscreens): Although a key tool in sun protection, sunscreens (yes, sunscreens!) can cause photosensitivity in some people. Those containing UVB absorbers known as benzophenones are the biggest culprits.

Photosensitivity Prevention and Treatment Tips: Identify the photosensitizing agent in your medication and, if possible, avoid it when spending time in the sun. In cases where medication can’t be discontinued, follow good sun protection strategies, which includes the use of sunscreen (careful to choose the right one if they are the cause of the photosensitivity!), wearing sun protective clothing and staying in the shade whenever possible.

Sun-Savvy Tip: Regardless which medication you take (whether listed here or not!) consult with your doctor and/or pharmacist before spending time in the sun.

Want even more healthy tips for your summer travels? Check out Dr. Nathan’s advice for keeping your medications safe in the heat while traveling.

About On Call International:

When traveling, every problem is unique-a medical crisis, a political threat, even a common accident such as a missed flight. But every solution starts with customized care that ensures travelers are safe and protected. That’s why for over 25 years, On Call International has provided fully-customized travel risk management and emergency assistance services protecting millions of travelers, their families, and their organizations. Visit and follow us on LinkedIn to learn more.