Woman who ‘squeezed limes’ to make margaritas ends up with blistering burns all over her hands

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Courtney Fallon, from New York, was diagnosed with phytophotodermatitis after she squeezed limes to make margaritas for her family over Memorial Day weekend, then lay in the sun for hours (file image of a case of phytophotodermatitis)


Woman who ‘squeezed hundreds of limes’ to make margaritas ends up with blistering burns all over her hands after spending the day in the sun

  • Courtney Fallon, from New York, squeezed limes to make margaritas for her family over Memorial Day weekend in Florida
  • When she woke up the next morning, she woke up with her hands covered in huge, red blisters and her skin feeling as if it were ‘on fire’ 
  • She was diagnosed with phytophotodermatitis, which occurs when the skin comes into contact with a plant’s chemicals and is then exposed to UV rays

A New York woman who squeezed ‘hundreds of limes’ to make margaritas over Memorial Day weekend ended up with blistering burns all over her hands.

Courtney Fallon was in Florida with her family for the holiday, where she blended together lime juice, ice and tequila – about one lime is needed per cocktail – and spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool in the sun. 

However, the next morning, she woke up with her hands covered in huge, red blisters and her skin feeling as if it were ‘on fire’, reported Prevention

It wasn’t a sunburn but rather a condition known as phytophotodermatitis, which occurs when chemicals in plants – such as limes – cause the skin to become inflamed after it’s exposed to sunlight. 

Courtney Fallon, from New York, was diagnosed with phytophotodermatitis after she squeezed limes to make margaritas for her family over Memorial Day weekend, then lay in the sun for hours (file image of a case of phytophotodermatitis) 

Phytophotodermatitis is an inflammatory reaction that occurs when the skin comes into contact with a plant’s chemicals and is then exposed to UV rays.

‘It is a non-immunologic reaction meaning it can happen to anyone,’ Dr Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermtaologist at the Cleveland Clinic told DailyMail.com. 

Reactions usually occur within 24 hours, peaking between 48 and 72 after hours after UV exposure.

First, the skin becomes red and tender, and starts burning. Then, within 48 hours, blisters form on the skin.  

The blisters are usually irregularly shaped because only the areas of skin that were exposed appear burned. 

‘It depends on what you came into contact with the plant’ said Dr Khetarpal.

‘If lime juice runs down the arm, you’ll see more streaks. If it’s a parent that then touched child, the blisters will look more finger-like.’ 

There are several plants and vegetables that contain chemical compounds known as photosensitizers, meaning  that – when activated by light – they can cause damage to cells.

Citrus fruits such as limes, lemons and oranges contain photosensitizers, but they are also found in carrots, celery, parsley and figs. 

‘We see more cases in the summer because the concentrations are higher in plants and more skin is exposed in warmer months,’ said Dr Khetarpal.

Phytophotodermatitis is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often resemble other conditions such as chemical burns, dermatitis or a fungal infection.

Once you or a doctor has diagnosed you with phytophotodermatitis, treatments focus on alleviating the pain.

Mild burns can be treated with ibuprofen but more severe burns may require topical steroidal creams or corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. 

After the swelling subsides, blisters on the skin can turn into dark patches that can last for a while before fading.

‘After the initial response, we have what’s called hyper pigmentation, which is a darkening of the skin,’ said Dr Khetarpal. ‘It can last from months to years, but it won’t scar.’ 

Experts recommend wearing gloves if you plan on squeezing limes for margaritas or, if you don’t wear gloves, to immediately wash your hands before going back out in the sun. 

It’s currently unknown if Fallon’s hands have healed or if she still has blisters. 

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