Most people don’t know that combining lime juice and sun rays is a lethal combination. The resulting chemical reaction is called Phytophotodermatitis. This phenomenon occurs when your skin has any lime juice on it, making it hypersensitive to ultraviolet ray exposure. The result is a painful chemical burn.
Warning: The photos below are somewhat graphic.
Recipe for disaster:
This woman made margarita cocktails and did not rinse enough of the lime juice off. The result was a painful burn.
This chemical reaction can happen to any skin color or type. The lime makes your skin reactive to ultraviolet light, typically UV-A radiation, which can penetrate glass. If you’re at the beach you should have lathered on sunscreen anyways but if you’re indoors you might not be aware of UV-A rays.
Many people assume its poison ivy or a bad sunburn. Symptoms include burning, itching, stinging, and large blisters can slowly accumulate. Symptoms usually begin within 24 hours of exposure and peak 48-72 hours after being exposed.
First you will experience the inflammatory stage, lasting from one to five days. This can be prolonged if you develop blisters and have a severe reaction.
Following inflammation is hyperpigamentation, lasting from weeks to months. The burning and painful symptoms subside, but the skin color may change.
If you’re exposed:
If you only have a mild reaction, such as redness, burning or swelling, apply a 1% hydrocortisone cream three times a day. If your reaction is more severe, characterized by deep red pigment, large swelling, skin erosion and a lot of blistering, visit your doctor, who can prescribe a stronger cream.
Dermatologists can prescribe oral treatments, but there are also topical applications. Some doctors might prescribe bleaching creams to treat the hyperpigmentation.
Lime juice is not the only plant based liquid that can cause phytophotodermatitis.
Photosensitizing compounds in parsnips, citrus fruits, carrots, celery, and figs can also induce the same chemical reaction.
Phytophotodermatitis is also called Margarita Photodermatisis and Lime Disease (not to be confused with Lyme Disease).
Be careful if you go hiking because some wild dill and wildflowers also have photosensitizing oil or dander.
If you do come into contact with citrus juice or wild plants, rinse off the juice or dander carefully. Make a habit of thoroughly scrubbing after handling any citrus fruits. The best way to prevent this burn is by being aware that it exists and sharing this information with others.