Last June, a bartender realized a really important fact in his life: that the sun and limes don’t mix.

Justin Fehntrich suffered from second degree burns on his left hand after he squeezed limes for margarita drinks outdoors. It turns out that although limes are beneficial to our health, they can cause “margarita burn.” Fehntrich volunteered as a bartender in Fire Island for an LGBT advocacy fundraiser.

While preparing for the event, Justin Fehntrich helped squeeze about 100 limes. He was shocked to find that this innocent task sent him to the hospital with one red hand that is swollen and with blisters. The burns, as told by the doctors, were because of phytophotodermatitis, which is also called the margarita burn.

The Science behind the Margarita Burn

It may sound ridiculous to some people, but the margarita burn is a real thing. It has been documented in many parts of the world and has happened to a number of people. In fact, there was another bartender apart from Justin who also suffered from the same kind of skin burn, although his is less severe.

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Phytophotodermatitis is caused by photosensitizers, which come from the oils and juices of vegetables and fruits (in the case of Fehntrich, limes). The photosensitizers cause people to become very sensitive to sunlight. The other bartender did not sustain the same kind of horrible injuries as with Fehntrich because he was in a shaded area when it happened.

Lime burn: It's real and it's dangerous. / PicHelp
Lime burn: It’s real and it’s dangerous. / PicHelp

Who is at Risk and What is the Treatment?

Oftentimes, the chefs and the bartenders are the ones who are most susceptible to margarita burn because they handle citrus fruits. However, anyone can have this kind of sensitivity. To avoid such burns, you should know about the following facts about it:

  • Certain plants and fruits cause the reaction, which is triggered when the chemicals are exposed to sunlight and other ultraviolet lights.
  • Unlike other sun-related skin problems, phytophotodermatitis only affects the skin that has been exposed to the chemical and not the sun.
  • Aside from limes, the chemicals are found in other citrus fruits, wild parsley, wild dill, wild parsnip, and buttercups.
  • Although phytophotodermatitis is not rare, the cases in the United States have not been established, which is why there are some doctors who remain clueless about the problem.
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Margarita burn is comparable to other types of burn, which is why it is also treated like the others. Antibiotics are used and the burns are covered with gauze until they are fully healed. As for Fehntrich, he had to wear gauze for about three weeks and he had to take a leave from work while waiting for his skin to regrow.


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