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.