Doctors warn of severe ‘margarita burns’ in summer

As many people plan for a relaxing holiday weekend by the pool with a freshly shaken or stirred citrus drink in hand, doctors are warning about margarita burn.

Doctors know it as phytophotodermatitis. Dr. Tola Oyesanya, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente, said when a chemical found in citrus comes into contact with sunlight and lingers on the skin, it can cause severe burns.

“There’s a reaction that occurs over 24 hours that can cause redness, burning, irritation, even blisters on the skin,” Oyesanya said.

The difference between margarita burn and a sun rash or sun burn is the pattern the irritation creates, she said.

“This condition happens only where the certain chemical actually touched your skin,” Oyesanya said.



Doctors are seeing an uptick in the condition as more people travel to warm vacation spots.

“It’s also more common in someone who’s been drinking a margarita on the beach,” she said. “Limes are probably the most common cause of this condition,” although the chemical is also found in parsley and parsnips.

Oyesanya said to make sure to wash your hands after handling citrus in the sun. And if the condition develops, a cold compress can take care of it, unless it’s more severe.

“If there are blisters involved or severe itching, it’s a good idea to contact your primary care doctor or your dermatologist,” she said.

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