Published: February 2010

Summer reminder - photosensitivity reactions

Prescriber Update 31(1): 7-8
February 2010

Now that summer is here healthcare professionals are reminded of the risk of photosensitivity reactions with a number of topical and systemic medicines.

CARM adverse reaction data shows that the ten most commonly reported medicines associated with photosensitivity reactions in New Zealand are:

  1. Doxycycline
  2. Hydrochlorothiazide
  3. Amiodarone
  4. Piroxicam
  5. Chlorpromazine
  6. Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Co-trimoxazole)
  7. Captopril
  8. Enalapril
  9. Bendroflumethiazide
  10. Carbamazepine

Photosensitivity reactions typically appear as unexpected sunburn or a dry or blistering rash on sun-exposed skin, which may or may not be itchy. The most commonly affected areas are the face, neck, arms, backs of hands, and often lower legs and feet. The reaction may occur immediately or as long as 72 hours after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

The New Zealand Dermatological Society recommends that patients take the following precautions when using a medicine which has been associated with photosensitivity reactions:

If patients experience a photosensitivity reaction, the main goal in the treatment is to identify the photosensitising agent and withdraw it if possible.  In cases where the medicine cannot be withdrawn patients should be advised to follow the sun protection strategies listed above.

Further information can be found on the New Zealand Dermatological Society website: