Three limes and a juicer sitting on a wooden surfaceCan limes really make you sick? What exactly is phytophotodermatitis? And what does any of this have to do with your favorite summer beverages?

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What it is… 

First, a quick science lesson for you: Phyto means plant.  Photo means light.  Derm means skin.  And –itis means inflammation.

Phytophotodermatitis is an itchy, painful rash that can occur after sunlight hits areas of the skin that have come into contact with the juice or oil from limes and/or their peels.

Why it happens…

The juice and oil in limes contain light-sensitive chemicals called furocoumarins. Normally harmless, when these chemicals come into contact with UV rays, they chemically transform, which can result in a very uncomfortable rash.

What it looks like…

Phytophotodermatitis generally looks red, blistery, itchy and is as uncomfortable as poison ivy. Doctors say that the rash resembles paint dribbling down the arm.

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