It's not often that Amy and Matt Parkin-Low allow their three young children sugary treats. But just over a week ago, and two days into the family’s luxurious Mexican holiday, feeling utterly relaxed, they thought: why not?
After all, the frozen lime lollies five-year-old Henry was lusting after had been hand-crafted by the Cancun resort’s staff and contained nothing but local, natural ingredients. They were sugar-free, with not an additive in sight.
Yet that afternoon, as the family lounged in their five-star suite, Amy, 32, noticed a splattering of red, angry spots collecting around her eldest son’s mouth. By the end of the evening, these had morphed into large, crusty blisters.
‘As first we thought he’d contracted foot-and-mouth disease,’ says Matt, an HR consultant from Tunbridge Wells.
‘But then we noticed that the inflamed, red areas seemed to be only where he’d smeared the ice lolly over his face, and where it had dripped down his arm and splattered on his chest.’
Day one: Inflamed, red areas start to appear around the mouth of five-year-old Henry after he ate a frozen lime lolly made from local, natural ingredients
Day two: The condition worsened and the inflamed patches grew more severe. Henry was suffering the beginnings of a bizarre condition triggered by a chemical reaction between sunlight, certain plant chemicals – most commonly limes – and the skin
Baffled, and desperately worried – but not able to get in touch with their local family doctor – Amy began researching online and quickly discovered the possible, and quite unexpected cause.
Henry was suffering the beginnings of a bizarre condition triggered by a chemical reaction between sunlight, certain plant chemicals – most commonly limes – and the skin.
Called phytophotodermatitis, it is thought to affect about 16 in every 100,000 people and can also be triggered by exposure to the juice of lemons, oranges and even celery, figs, carrots and parsnips. Phyto means plant, photo means sunlight and dermatitis means inflammation of the skin.
It occurs when compounds within the plants called furocoumarins react with UVA light, causing damage to the skin.
Day three: Blisters started to form on Henry's face, as the reaction grew more severe causing damage to the skin
Day four: A few days later, the red patches had morphed into large, crusty blisters. Called phytophotodermatitis, it is thought to affect about 16 in every 100,000 people and can also be triggered by exposure to the juice of lemons, oranges and even celery, figs, carrots and parsnips
Phytophotodermatitis occurs when compounds within the plants (such as limes, stock image) called furocoumarins react with UVA light, causing damage to the skin
It's not just children licking lime ice lollies who can fall victim to phytophoto-dermatitis. The condition is also known as margarita burn, as it’s often seen on the hands of those preparing the famous lime-based cocktail in the hot summer months.
Recently there were reports of a woman who squeezed hundreds of limes to make margaritas for a celebration – and ended up with blistering burns on her hands.
Limes can also cause damage to the hands when preparing margaritas in hot weather
Courtney Fallon was holidaying in Florida when she spent a morning blending lime juice, ice and tequila before going to relax by the pool.
The next morning her hands were covered in huge red blisters and her skin felt as if it was ‘on fire’.
Experts say that if parents get lime on their hands and then touch their children, the youngsters can end up with red fingerprint marks if there