For many Iowans, a highlight of summer is enjoying a margarita while taking in the sun. But, state health officials have a warning about a toxic reaction playfully referred to as “lime disease.” That’s L-I-M-E, not the tick-borne Lyme Disease spelled with a “Y.”
State epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says there’s a more technical term for the combination of citric acid and sun. “The name of this is phytophotodermatitis and what it basically means is a combination of a plant or fruit juice, along with sun light, can actually cause your skin to burn,” Quinlisk said.
Also sometimes referred to as margarita dermatitis, the skin rash or burn often happens when someone is outdoors mixing a drink and lime, lemon or another citrus juice splashes on their skin. Add some sun rays and it can turn painful. “That sets up this reaction that can actually burn your skin and burn it to the point of getting blisters,” Quinlisk said.
There’s a simple solution to avoiding “lime disease” – wash your hands and arms with soap and water after handling citrus juice. “There are interesting situations where a parent will have it on their hand and touch their child on the back…and the child will actually get a burn that looks like a hand on their back,” Quinlisk said.