‘Margarita burn’: These common cocktail staples don’t mix well with sun


Nothing beats an ice-cold beverage on a hot summer’s day, but dermatologists say you need to exercise caution when putting together summer cocktails or you could wind up with some painful burns and blisters.

People looking to cool down with a refreshing margarita should know that the juice from limes and other citrus fruits on bare skin do not react well with the sun and can result in a serious reaction that’s often referred to as “margarita burn.”

Margarita burn, more formally known as phytophotodermatitis, happens when skin is exposed to plant compounds called furanocoumarins — compounds that exist in certain fruits and vegetables and make the skin more susceptible to ultraviolet A (UVA) light.

When leftover juice remains on the hands or other parts of the skin without being properly washed off, it can result in light-to-severe blistering.

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“I commonly see phytophotodermatitis when somebody has been barbecuing on a sunny afternoon and having drinks with limes in them, like margaritas or beers with a lime squeezed in,” dermatologist Melissa Piliang told the Cleveland Clinic.

“Anything where they’re cutting and squeezing limes and splashing the juice on themselves and then enjoying the sunshine.”

Piliang said she’s also seen it in people who were making guacamole from scratch and forgot to wash off the lime juice.

It’s not just limes that people need to be careful with; other culprits include fruits and vegetables like dill, celery, peppers, carrots, parsnips and other citrus fruits, as well as plants like St. John’s Wort, buttercups and hogweed.

Plants like Hogweed can also cause phytophotodermatitis.

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B.C. mom Reanna Bendzak shared a Facebook post earlier this year, warning other parents when her baby experienced severe phytophotodermatitis after chewing on a stalk of celery.

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In the post, Bendzak explained that she had let her teething seven-month-old chew on some celery sticks to help soothe her painful gums. Despite wiping the drool and celery juice away and spending less than half an hour in the sun, her daughter developed severe blisters around her mouth, which lead to hyperpigmentation and scarring.

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Dr. Samer Jaber, a board-certified dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York, told CBS News that those with light skin, who burn easily or have red hair, might be more susceptible to severe burning, but that anyone can be affected by margarita burns. The rash, he said, will also depend on the amount and intensity of exposure to the juice and sun.

“It can just be mild redness if you have a small amount of lime juice on your skin with a short duration of sun exposure,” he said, which can last from days to weeks. “In situations when you are exposed for hours with a lot of lime on your skin, it can result in severe, painful, blistering burns resulting in open sores that require medical attention.”

The good news, however, is that margarita burn is pretty easy to avoid. Washing your hands and forearms well with soap and water after preparing food and drinks with citrus, celery and other causative foods will help immensely, as will wearing a sunscreen with a high SPF. Gardeners should wear gloves when pulling weeds and other plants, so avoid coming into contact with furanocoumarins.

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If you happen to find yourself with margarita burns, don’t pop the blisters. Instead, keep the affected area clean and use cold, wet compresses as needed for pain. A topical antibiotic ointment and bandage should be used to keep the burn and blisters covered and out of the sun.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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