PUBLISHED: 3:48 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Combination of limes, sun can cause 'margarita dermatitis'
HOUSTON - Adding a slice of lime to a favorite summer drink is a nice way to cool off, but it could leave you with burning skin and a rash, a condition some doctors call "margarita dermatitis."

Phytophotodermatitis, which is its medical name, happens when a certain plant compound comes in contact with the skin, making that one area light sensitive.

During the summer, lime juice is the common cause for this condition, hence the name, 'margarita dermatitis.'

"The reaction usually looks like a sunburn, or a poison ivy rash, with redness and sometimes swelling and blistering," said Dr. Rajani Katta, an associate professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

"It can be itchy and painful, and leave behind skin discoloration."

The photosensitizing compound is also found in plants such as celery, parsley and even Queen Anne's Lace.

Exposure can come from fruit drippings, scratches from branches or airborne particles.

"It's not just the plant that causes the condition," Katta said.

"The skin must be exposed to both the plant compound and the sun."

Treatment is similar to treating a poison ivy rash.

Cool compresses and hydrocortisone creams along with oral antihistamines are used. Severe cases could require steroid pills.

"This is a common condition, but most cases are mild and people usually won't head to the doctor," Katta said.

"I find patients are more bothered by the discoloration left behind rather than the inflamed area."

Preventative action is best.

Be aware of the plant products with which you come in contact and wash the area thoroughly before going out in the sun.

As always, make sure to apply sunscreen and stay in shaded areas to maintain good skin health.