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Limes, Grapefruit and Even Celery Don't Mix Well With Sun

Sun Exposure and Certain Plants Aren't a Good Match


Little boy holding glass in front of lemonade
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Alejandra Aguirre/Digital Vision/Getty Images
What do you get when you cross sucking on slices of lime with sun exposure? Unfortunately, a nasty sunburn ... or worse. How could that be? Read on and see!

While most of us and our kids love drinking a fresh limeade or lemonade and sucking on the fruit slices afterward while soaking up the sun ... or noshing on celery served in a drink or from a veggie tray while picnicking or by the pool ... the result may leave you wishing you had stayed inside instead. That's because certain photosensitizing plant compounds, much like certain medications, make the skin extra sensitive to sunlight. The result can leave you feeling burned and bummed. But there is an easy solution: wash your hands and your entire face!

This sun-induced skin sensitivity, called "phytodermatitis," is caused by juice dripping from fruits like limes, lemons, oranges or grapefruit, from celery, and even from parsnip and fennel onto the skin. Other plants can also have the same effect with certain individuals, so check with your doctor. With some, strong reactions can occur resulting in sunburn, rash, hives, and even blistering. Others may be unaffected. Parents and child care providers should be particularly careful in making sure kids wash their hands and faces carefully (even arms and legs if they are particularly messy with juice drippings) before heading outdoors.

Prevention is the best way to prevent phytodermatitis. If you or your kids aren't so lucky, use hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and a cool washcloth to soothe the burn. Severe cases may require oral antihistamines or even a steroid shot or pill. Consider bringing along those wet wipes or damp washcloths placed in a plastic bag for an easy way to wash off!

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