Photosensitivity – what is it and what are the risks?

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Photosensitivity is an abnormal skin reaction to sunlight which often takes the form of red, eczema-like patches or urticaria (hives). This skin sensitivity can be associated with taking certain medicines, using certain cosmetic products or eating certain foods such as parsley or celery.

Many medicines have photosensitizing properties. This is true of some antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and beta blockers used to combat high blood pressure. But it is also the case with some diabetes medication, antihistamines, anti acne drugs and antibiotics.

It is simple to check this – just see whether the packaging shows a cloud and the sun inside a red warning triangle.

Unfortunately it’s not so easy where cosmetics are concerned, as manufacturers are not subject to the same safety constraints. As a precaution, make it a rule not to use scented cosmetics when you are going to be out in the sun.

And whatever the case, don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist’s advice.

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