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Important PSA: “Margarita Burn” Is Real, and It Can Send You to the Hospital
One doctor calls it “a different type of lime disease.”
We’ve all been hurt by margaritas before. It’s just that usually when it happens, it’s the next morning, and it’s because we consumed one or four too many the night before. And though we’ve all sworn at one point or another, “Never again!” after those hangovers, we inevitably find our way back to that tasty lime-filled cocktail that epitomizes summer.
It's just too good to quit.
But now there’s a whole new reason to fear the tequila-soaked marg: phytophotodermatitis. Or, as it's more commonly known, “margarita burn.”
In a recent article, The Atlantic told the full story of Justin Fehntrich, a bartender who suffered severe burns as a result of prepping margaritas in the hot summer sun. According to the article, Fehntrich sliced and squeezed roughly 100 limes to stock the bar for an event. The juice from the limes caking his hands, combined with the hot summer sun, caused a burning reaction on his skin.
The burns grew in severity in the 48 hours after the event, causing Fehntrich to believe he’d had a brush with poison oak, eventually sending him to the hospital to seek treatment. But after several doctors' inspections, it was discovered that the juice from all those limes, which contain photosensitizers, exacerbated the sun's rays and resulted in nasty second-degree burns that made his hands look…rough.
According to one doctor, the cure for margarita burn is the same as the cure for any other burn: “Moisturizer and sunscreen for first-degree burns, and for second-degree burns, we drain the blisters then apply bacitracin or a triple antibiotic, nonstick dressing and gauze once a day until the burns are healed." Fehntrich's hands have fully recovered, though he says it took about three weeks in gauze until new skin had grown and healed enough to allow him to start bartending again.
But Fehntrich's case is far from abnormal. A quick/horrifying search of "phytophotodermatitis" will show you that the effects of the sun on citrus-soaked skin are definitely not something you want to mess with.
So just keep that in mind the next time you're squeezing fresh limes for your refreshing summer cocktails. And maybe buy a pair of gloves.