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Summer Hazards | Margarita Disease

Long weekend cocktails? Watch out for margarita burn


Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Friday, August 3, 2018, 2:02 PM - 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.

WARNING: The following images may be graphic to some viewers

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.

Hyperpigmentation on patient’s right hand caused by phytophotodermatitis -- The College of Family Physicians of Canada

"Within 24 hours the patients may describe initially a burning itching and then it'll start to get raised swelling, and with some patients it's more severe blistering," Nova Scotia-based dermatologist Dr. Richard Langley told CTV.

The images call to mind severe burns sustained after exposure to giant hogweed, an invasive plant species found across North America.

Large, tense unilocular bullae on the dorsal hand and interdigital spaces of a 26-year-old woman caused by phytophotodermatitis -- Canadian Medical Association Journal

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.

SOURCE: CFP | CMAJ | CTV

WATCH BELOW: Removing an 18-foot hogweed plant, watch what happens


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