Woman, 44, gets horror 'margarita burns' after cocktail spilt on her foot reacted with sunlight

A WOMAN suffered horrific “margarita burns” after a cocktail spilt on her foot reacted to sunlight.

Meegan Clancy, 44, said it took three months for her foot to recover from the blistering and discoloration as though she’d had “acid burn”. 

Docs told her she had suffered photosynthesisdermatitis, a type of eczema eruption caused mostly by sunlight, though admitted they had no idea what might have caused it.

Baffled by her mystery reaction, Meegan posted on social media where her friends revealed she had “margarita burn”.

The injury is often caused by the acid from limes in alcoholic beverages reacting with the sun, and gets its name from the cocktail margarita. 

Meegan said: "It was very dramatically ugly. I don't have pretty feet as it is.

"My calves were the size of my thighs. It was nasty.

"I'm quite susceptible to sunburn but it almost looked like an acid burn.”

Meegan had been out drinking with friends on Sydney harbour last October when someone spilled a vodka, lime and soda on her foot.

Out for the day on a boat trip, Meegan immediately dried off and thought nothing of it.

She went to bed the night after her day drinks with friends and complained her foot was “really hot and quite sore”.

Meegan said: "On the Sunday evening, I'd just gone to bed, and I got up to go to the bathroom and I said to my other half 'my foot is really hot and quite sore'.

"I turned on the light and went 'oh, my goodness'. It had swollen up to my knee and it was absolutely burning.

"We'd been in the water over the weekend, and I thought 'maybe there was something in the water'.”

The property manager slept with a box around her foot because it was so sensitive it couldn’t touch the sheets.

The next morning, she hobbled into work in agony but her boss told her to see her doctor. 

But her doctor and A&E medics were just as bewildered with Meegan’s foot.

She said: "The doctor said he didn't know what that is. He had no idea, but thought maybe it was an infection. 

“He told me to take antibiotics and if it hadn't settled down by the morning, to go to the emergency department.

"Then I was sitting in the emergency for six hours and they were asking 'did you step on an oyster shell? Did your dog scratch you or bite you?' I was going through department after department.

"The only thing that gave it away was there was a tiny burn on my other foot. It made it look like there was a splash that had gone over my foot and splashed on to the other foot.

"Finally, they said 'we think it's called contact dermatitis'. It's a reaction, but they couldn't say what the reaction was from."

What can cause “margarita burn”?

"Margarita burn", medically called phytophotodermatitis, is when certain plant chemicals can cause skin inflammation when exposed to sunlight.

Some plants that may cause phytophotodermatitis include:

  • citrus fruits (most commonly limes)
  • carrots
  • celery
  • figs
  • wild dill
  • wild parsley
  • wild parsnips

The condition phytophotodermatitis occurs when plant chemicals – such as from food, drinks and plants – cause inflammation in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight.

It first causes blister-like patches on the skin that appear wherever the substance was.

Patients can get redness and swelling and their skin can be left with discoloured patches for several weeks.

Meegan said: "It took three months until the discoloration was completely gone. You have that wine stain, like a birthmark children get, on your foot for months.

"For the swelling to reduce and the foot to peel, it took at least a good month.

"All they said was 'put this cream on, keep it raised, keep it cool and let it be'.

"With the sensitivity of the raw fresh baby skin I couldn't put it out in the sun. I couldn't wear tight shoes.”

Meegan had been sent away with ointment but no clear answers on what had actually caused her reaction.

So it wasn't until a friend messaged her to ask if she had spilt a drink that she had a light bulb moment.

Meegan said: "I posted on Instagram and a girlfriend contacted me immediately and said 'that's called margarita burn. Did you have some sort of drink spill on you in the last couple of days?'.

"Because you're on a boat, you're not going to go and rinse your foot. You just dry it off and you're fine.

"But the sun hitting the acid in the [drink] creates this photosynthesis dermatitis which is very commonly known as margarita burn.”

Meegan said she has since learned of many other people’s experience with the reaction.

She said: "What the men in Mexico often find is they get this little blister on the top of their lip where the lime from the Corona bottles hit them.

"Another friend said she squeezed fresh lime on mango and put her daughter outside to eat it so she didn't get sticky inside, and all her hands were burnt.

"Another friend's partner was a cocktail maker at an outside wedding and the same thing happened – he blistered top to toe.

"A lot of cocktails have limes in them. It's very common in Mexico and very common for people drinking Coronas with lime." 

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Now Meegan is extra cautious as summer in Australia approaches, taking baby wipes with her to avoid finding herself in the agonising situation again.

She said: "My foot's pretty normal now. I'm still very cautious when I'm out in the sun because I still think there's a little bit of staining.

"When I'm out this summer I'll be more cautious. I take baby wipes with me now so if something happens, I'll rinse it with water and use a baby wipe."

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