Health & wellness

Daily Dose

A lime disease that has nothing to do with ticks

Ever heard about “lime disease” — not to be confused with Lyme disease? It’s a painful, itchy rash that sometimes causes blisters and appears a day or two after skin splattered with lime juice is exposed to the sun.

Dermatologists refer to it by its scientific name, phytophotodermatitis, but perhaps “bartender disease” is a more fitting moniker since it’s likely to plague those mixing margaritas on sunny outdoor patios, said Dr. Joe Merola, a dermatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Fruits, vegetables, or plants that contain compounds called psoralens — limes, celery, parsnips — increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. This can lead to blistering rashes if the plant juices get on the skin before sun exposure.


The rash tends to have an unnatural-looking shape, he added, based on how the juice lands on one’s skin. People who handle limes or are avid gardeners of root vegetables should wear gloves when outdoors to protect their skin or wash their hands and arms before heading into the sunlight.

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If a rash appears, the irritated area should be washed with soap and water. “You can treat it with an over-the-counter topical steroid like hydrocortisone,” Merola said.

Dermatologists can prescribe stronger prescription creams if that doesn’t bring relief.