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Beware of 'margarita burn': Dangerous side effect of limes and sun

Friday, July 24th 2020, 12:20 pm - WARNING: Video contains graphic images. Viewer discretion advised.

Nothing beats a lip-smackingly delicious Margarita on a hot summer day, but turns out the popular cocktail comes with a hidden danger.

Phytophotodermatitis, otherwise referred to as 'Margarita disease' or 'lime disease,' is a condition caused by a chemical reaction, which makes skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light.

Not to be confused with Lyme disease caused by bacteria spread by ticks.

This condition occurs when citrus juice lingers on the skin and is hit by direct sunlight. The result is a serious burning reaction. Itching and swelling can eventually lead to blisters if not treated. Discolouration of the skin is also common, which in some cases can last over a month.

Irritation, including burning and itching, can occurr within 24 hours, and thereafter can lead to raised swelling and even blistering in more severe cases.

Health experts warn it's not only citrus fruits that can cause such a reaction. Carrots, celery, wild dill, parsley and parsnips are just some of the foods that may cause phytophotodermatitis.

Moderate blistering can be soothed with cool washcloths. In more severe outbreaks, topical ointments, such as steroids, can help initial blisters and inflammation.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid Margarita Disease:

  • Wash your hands and other exposed parts of the skin immediately after using citrus fruits
  • Wear gloves when working with vulnerable fruits and vegetables
  • Put on sunscreen before heading outdoors to prevent an accidental rash from exposed hands
  • Phytophotodermatitis is often confused with other skin conditions, including sun allergies, poison ivy, poison oak and hives. Mild cases of phytophotodermatitis do not necessarily require a doctor's visit. However, if it does not clear up on its own and symptoms become worse, contact your doctor.

SOURCES: CFP | CMAJ | CTV

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