A hangover isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the only thing youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll risk by drinking a cocktail by the pool this summer. If you get fruit juice on your skin and then go out in the sun, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re putting yourself at risk for a seriously nasty chemical burn. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a skin condition called phytophotodermatitis, a reaction caused by the chemicals in some fruits and plants (most notably, limes, lemons, and celery) that make your skin hypersensitive to the sun.
Dermatologist Michele Green, MD, says cases of this tend to spike in the summer, when people are handling cocktails garnished with limes or celery, using lemon juice to lighten their hair, or squeezing limes for fresh margaritas. Sounds harmless enough, right? The problem: If the chemicals from these items get onto your skin and arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t washed off with soap and water, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll cause a reaction when that area of skin is exposed to the sun. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basically like a chemical burn because it makes them sun sensitive,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Green.
The Scary Signs Within a day or two of exposure, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll notice some redness and irritation, which may include blistering in more severe cases, says Green. But the most noticeable result is hyperpigmentation, or brown spots, which appear up to a week later and can last for several months. This reaction can show up on any spot on your body that was exposed to both the chemicals and the sun. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Usually the cue is linear streaks from where they poured or spilled lime juice,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Green. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Or if they were squeezing lemon on their hair, they may see brown streaks on their faces.Ã¢â‚¬Â
How to Deal So what happens if you spot this reaction post-vacation? If you have a severe burn with blistering, you may want to see a doctor for a prescription-strength hydrocortisone cream, says Green. In some cases, your MD may also provide a bleaching agent for the hyperpigmentation, though itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll eventually fade on its own. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just sporting some sunspots, you can skip the doctor and use an OTC hydrocortisone cream for relief. But donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t panicÃ¢â‚¬”the reaction isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t dangerous, and it goes away in time, says Green.
Prevention Tips To avoid it from happening in the first place, take precautions when handling fruits outside (and note that these chemicals are also found in parsley, parsnips, dill, and various other fruits and plants). Ã¢â‚¬Å“DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mix drinks while in the sun, and wash hands immediately so there are no traces of chemicals on them,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Green. You can even use gloves to be extra careful, and you should also make sure to clean up any spills to keep chemicals from finding their way to your arms or legs. And if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re enjoying a cocktail at a cookout or pool party, consider skipping the lime wedge in your Corona and swapping that fresh margarita for a piÃƒÂ±a coladaÃ¢â‚¬”your skin will thank you.
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