Summer weather is approaching leading many to squeeze a lime into their cold beer or margarita. Surprisingly, one might find her skin breaking out with a burning rash called phytophotodermatitis after handling that lime. Phytophotodermatitis occurs if chemicals in certain plants come in contact with the skin making the area sensitive to light. A common culprit causing this condition is limes leading to the name “margarita dermatitis” but it can also occur from contact with other plants such as celery, lemons, figs and Queen Anne’s lace.
Phytophotodermatitis is a skin reaction caused by contact with certain plant substances (furanocoumarins) in combination with sunlight. Furocoumarins are the photosensitizing chemicals in certain plants and fruits and are at their highest levels in spring and summer increasing the likelihood of exposure. Classic presentations of phytophotodermatitis include bizarre and red streaks, blisters, and streaks of darkening of the skin. Particularly helpful clues to the diagnosis include “drip marks”; irregular, bizarre “sunburns”; and handprint shapes.
1. Avoid UV exposure or wear a sunscreen when in the sun.
2. Wash hands and any areas thoroughly that are exposed to juice of limes/lemons or other potential plants.
3. Use cold compresses to drain and soothe blisters if a rash develops and contact a doctor to decide if topical steroids are needed.