The dangers of limes It's Simply Lindsay

You know when you’re browsing Facebook or the internet and come across seemingly freakish health-related topics with pictures that make your stomach curl and think, that could never happen to me, and go on the rest of your day thinking nothing of it? I hope that is not the case with this post – I hope you read it, share it with your friends, and prevent this from happening to you, your friends, and your children. I hope you share it with everyone you know to avoid this seemingly freakish health-related topic because it can happen to you. How do I know? Because it happened to my husband.

Justin came home from work one day with some small blisters on his hand; he seemed only mildly bothered by it, and it looked like nothing to me. I gave him Benedryl ointment and thought nothing of it. The days went by and the blisters not only spread and enlarged, but a painful bright red splotchy rash developed. My husband is not a complainer and has a high threshold for pain, so he played it off for a while like it was nothing. Every day it grew worse until he admitted the horrible pain and burning he felt.

The Dangerous Thing You Need to Know About Limes

When he finally went to the doctor, the doctor told him he had poison ivy, which wasn’t possible, and then said it was some sort of chemical burn. The ointment and medication he was prescribed only exacerbated the rash, blisters, and pain because his ailment was misdiagnosed. After a visit to the dermatologist, it was determined within minutes that this was, in fact, a second degree chemical burn, and that it was caused by that small, innocent looking green fruit – limes.

Hand burn

How limes cause chemical burns

We like guacamole in our family, kind of a lot, so when my husband makes it, he makes large batches, hand-squeezing multiple limes into the concoction. After just a quick rinse to get the stickiness off his hands, my husband went about his day; we played outside and took a walk with our daughter.

We never knew that when lime juice is not adequately washed off your skin that it can cause a chemical reaction with sunlight that causes severe burns, called phytophotodermatitis. It was difficult to determine the cause because with these kinds of burns, the symptoms don’t arise until days after the reaction took place.

Other food culprits of burns

While limes are the most common cause of phytophotodermatitis, other culprits to watch out for include:

  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • dill
  • celery
  • lemons
  • grapefruit
  • parsley

How to avoid phytophotodermatitis

Don’t think that you can’t enjoy and handle these foods/plants safely for fear of getting a chemical burn. All you have to do is thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling these items before being exposed to the sun. As a good practice, you should wear sunscreen daily, and don’t forget your hands.

Doctors commonly see these types of burns during spring break and in the summer when people are outside having margaritas and squeezing limes in their beers, and sadly there are cases of children getting these burns, too, from helping out in the kitchen or even from fresh squeezed lemonade at a lemonade stand.

How to treat phytophotodermatitis

If you know you have phytophotodermatitis, the treatment generally requires self-care. Soothe your burning skin with cool compresses, like a wet cloth,  hydrocortisone creams, and oral antihistamines. In severe cases, treatment might involve steroid pills. If your pain and blisters are severe, you need to see your doctor for a checkup and possibly for a prescription.

You can soothe your skin with aloe, vitamin E, or what worked best for my husband was…wait for it…don’t be grossed out…my breast milk. If you have access to breast milk, fresh or frozen, you can dab it directly on the burn or mix it with a bit of coconut oil to make more of a cream. Breast milk is incredibly and magically healing, and it was the only thing that took the pain and burning immediately away from my husband. It also helped to heal him – remember that sore, red picture from before? This picture was taken two days later as a result of the milk treatment – still red but exponentially better looking and feeling great.

Hand burn after

Lasting thoughts

Please spread the word about this scary, dangerous, and painful thing that can happen to you – because as we, unfortunately, learned the hard way, it can happen to you.

  • Oh my goodness! I love limes and have felt some itching after juicing them but never would have given it a second thought! I’m officially washing my hands thoroughly after I use them (and everything you listed) now! I’m glad your husband is doing better!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I love limes, too!!! Never knew the juice creates a chemical reaction to the sun. So scary.

  • This is the second post I’ve read about this! Glad you’re sharing this. Who would have known?!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oh my gosh no kidding?? I never heard anything about this until it recently happened to my husband! So crazy.

  • Okay I work in health care and I’ve never heard of this! Totally crazy! I’m glad you were able to get down to the culprit of it and he’s feeling better now!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Isn’t it nuts? So scary. I can’t imagine this happening to myself or my child – ouchhhhhhh.

  • Tiffany {A Touch of Grace}

    That’s crazy Lindsay! I know citrus fruits can make your skin photosensitive (like citrus oils can) but that is severe! Glad he finally got a proper diagnosis.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      So severe! His were second degree, but they can go up to third.

      • Bruce_Mitchell

        Yikes. I suffered third degree burns from an exploding aerosol flea spray and wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone. Intense pain beyond all imagining. You have done us all a great service by publicizing this. And the wonders of breast milk! The benefits to children used to be well-known and are becoming more so in our society, but who’da thunk as a remedy for burns? Amazing.

        THX for your efforts to inform!

  • Justin Copeland

    The real story here is the miracle milk. You created a child. And now you have this liquid magic that can do basically anything. and I am thankful! I’m still waiting for my BM bath…

    • Lindsay Katherine

      haha you’ll be waiting a long time, buddy.

  • Wow, thank you for sharing!! Just a week ago my husband had this unexplained rash on his palms and it was after we were working with limes in the kitchen. I wonder if he has a more mild version of this. So crazy!

    Erin, Attention to Darling

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I’m sure that’s what it was!! Those food/plant items can make you really sensitive. I’m glad his wasn’t too severe and hopefully this will help you both in the future!!

  • Oh my gosh! A few years ago I saw a news story about a few little girls who had been playing with limes from a backyard lime tree. They were having “fights” with them – throwing them at each other and they all got terrible burns. So sorry this happened to your husband, but this is a good thing to know about! Sharing with my friends and family.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Ahhh those poor kids – that’s why I’m trying to get the word out there. I know how horrible this has been for Justin and would hate for it to happen to anyone else!

  • Flavia Bernardes

    This is scary… Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it’ll help others. 🙂

  • Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Wow! This is so crazy! I had not idea, as I don’t deal much with limes. I have had kind of weird things like this on my hands before (that weren’t poison ivy), so I can see how one would thing that at first. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is so crazy! It makes me really make sure to wash my hands after dealing with all of our acidic produce! I sent you the Norwex goodies and those should also help with it! They get up to 99% of bacteria off a surface, so I am sure they would make sure to remove any residue from limes and lemons! Mind blown about this! I have to make sure to share it with everyone i know!


  • Oh my GOSH!!! So crazy to think that this happened to him! Wow, thanks for such an informative post. I never knew that this could even happen. Poor Justin! I really should take more notice to things like this because I think it will never happen to me, but now it has happened to someone I know!

  • Wow that’s intense! Thanks for sharing! Glad he’s okay!

  • Angela

    Oh my. I’m sharing this now! I had no idea!

  • Oh wow! Thanks for sharing! This is good to know.

  • I’m sorry to your husband who had to endure the pain – ouch! This is something I did not know and I’m so glad I do now! I love limes cut up and just squeezed in my water and then I often head out the door with my boys for a walk! So thanks for sharing.

  • Boxwood Avenue

    Wow this is incredible (in a bad way), I had no idea! Thank you for sharing!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Isn’t it incredibly horrible?!? Thanks for reading.

  • adapperchick

    That is crazy! Thanks for sharing! I love limes and I’m always using them, and now that I know I’ll be cautious.

  • Oh my gosh! I’ve never heard of this! That burn looks terrible. I’m going to remind my husband to always wash his hands after handling limes. He uses them a lot in the summer, and isn’t always good about it. ps. Breastmilk really is magical and all healing!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      It really was terrible 🙁 Poor guy – and YAY for breast milk, it’s quite amazing.

  • This is crazy! It’s one of those things that literally no one would know until it happens to them. Thanks for sharing, and I hope the husband is feeling better!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Isn’t it crazy/awful?? That’s why I’m trying to spread the message, so others can prevent this from happening.

  • Omg this is nuts! When I read your headline I was curious, but this nuts! Thanks for sharing! So good to know!

    Laura | Laura Aime Vous

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Thanks for reading! Hope it saves you or a friend from a crazy, painful, unnecessary injury in the future.

  • Holy cow, I had no clue that was even possible.
    I will definitely tell my friends because we’re all big guacamole lovers here in TX.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I hope your husband is beginning to feel better.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I knew! Who knew? Hoping this saves you and your guacamole loving friends 👍

  • tunafacialistic

    Lindsay, way to be there for your man…milk definitely does a body good.
    Now limes don’t have to be the “bad guy”.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Haha I do what I can. I am such a lime girl- we are just extra careful with hand washing and sun now.

    • Want communication and not onl
  • Dia

    Oh wow I had no idea limes could do this to your skin, I know citrus fruits can do a lot of damage to your teeth but I never thought it could do this kind of damage. I’m a huge citrus person. I have limes, lemons or grapefruit every day. I can’t believe carrots is on this list.

    • Bruce_Mitchell

      Yeah, citrus I can understand, but carrots, parsley, dill, parsnips and celery — who could know? Frequent hand washing seems in order to avoid the problem.

      • Lindsay Katherine

        Isn’t it crazy? I never would have known and wish it was more common knowledge so nobody gets hurt unnecessarily!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I know! I was shocked by things like carrots and parsley- like you, I loveeee citrus fruits.

  • WHAT?!?!?! Oh my goodness! I had no idea this could happen! Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m so sorry your husband had to go through the pain!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      I know, who knew?! Poor Justin, but he’s a trooper, and hopefully by getting the word out, it will help others.

  • Paige Allison

    I knew lemons could cause some serious damage with the sun (hello, that combo can bleach out your hair!) but I never thought about limes. But of course – it’s the same citrus family! Sorry this happened to your hubs, but glad he’s on the mend!

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oh man, I forgot about lightening hair with lemon juice! I did that back in the day – lucky that didn’t happen to my scalp. Youch.

  • MaryERossow

    … wow❗️ Who knew❓

    Grateful for your valuable post, Lindsay. 📝

    I personally consume 7+ lemons per day (most in my filtered ice water, but occasionally, just eaten like an apple.)

    I also squeeze limes on my burritos and into my beer. 🍺

    I will spread the word.

    MER 😱

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Wow, you love lemons!!! So does my husband – I can’t believe you eat them like an apple! Wow – it’s not too sour for you? My daughter likes to eat them, too. I know lemon water is so good for digestion, and I’m a huge lime girl myself. Thanks for reading and for spreading the word!!

      • MaryERossow

        … just posted your blog to my Facebook page. (5,000 close, personal ‘FRIENDS’ 😏 worldwide.)

        Will follow your blog… looks interesting.

        MER 😘

        • Lindsay Katherine

          You are such a peach, thank you!!!

    • Fullerene

      I think regularly eating lemons (like an apple) is very hard on your tooth enamel.

  • Lori Schneider

    Read your stuff, good advice. The only thing you flubbed was the improper use of the word exasperated, what you meant to say was exacerbated.

    • Lindsay Katherine

      Oh my gosh, thank you so much, Lori!!! How did I not catch this? Thanks for being my editor : )