Popular Veggie Causes Margarita Burns Around Infant’s Mouth

A common natural teething remedy has left an infant with terrible sores, known as ‘margarita burns’ around her mouth, prompting her mum to share their story as a warning to others.

Canadian mum, Reanna Bendzac posted several photos of her daughter’s very sore and burned mouth to Facebook, explaining that a piece of celery, which her daughter was chewing on for teething relief, was the culprit.

Teething remedy causes Margarita burns on infant
Source: Good Morning America

Celery causes burns around infant’s mouth

Reana explains how she and her family were outside on a sunny day in March. The weather was sunny, not warm (it is Canada remember) and her daughter was sun protected with a hat and sun-safe clothing.

At the time, her then 7-month-old was cutting her second tooth so just as any parent might, Reanna gave her little one a stick of celery to alleviate her itchy gums.

Our 7 month old was chewing on celery while enjoying the sunshine to help soothe her teething gums. She was in the sun for 20-30 minutes, the celery juice/drool was wiped away with a dry cloth and bathed that evening,” she writes on Facebook.

The next day, their tot developed redness and burn-like symptoms around her mouth which lasted about ten days. The scarring and hyperpigmentation that resulted from the reaction went on for six weeks.

Baby suffers margarita burns from celery and sunlight
Reanna shared several images of her daughter’s burns as they started to heal. Source: Facebook

What caused it? 

Was it an allergic reaction to celery? Not quite. The celery is to blame, but only partly. The condition is known as Phytophotodermatitis or Margarita Burn.

Phytophotodermatitis (PPD) is caused by the interaction of a specific plant substance with sunlight. In her little girl’s case, a furocoumarin-containing plant material, celery, reacted with UV light to cause a less common form of contact dermatitis.

This phototoxic reaction can be caused by plants in four different families (Apiaceae, Rutaceae, Moraceae, and Leguminosae). Some plants known to cause phytophotodermatitis include:

  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Fennel
  • Citrus – limes, lemon, oranges
  • Figs
  • Wild Dill

Citrus, especially limes, are the most common cause of phytophotodermatitis due to their prominence in margarita drinks, a popular summer drink. Hence, the condition is commonly known as Margarita Burn.

As Reanna writes,
After our experience, we hope to spread awareness of the risks around consuming certain foods and drinks in the sun.  She is healing well but we now have a long road of hyperpigmentation and scarring to treat. With warmer days approaching, please be mindful of what snacks/drinks you and your children are enjoying and wash thoroughly before going into the sun if you do consume anything on this list as this can happen to anyone.” 
celery juice and sunlight - margarita burn awareness
Reanna also recreated the “experiment’ on her own arm using celery juice combined with 25 minutes of sun exposure. Source: Facebook

Margarita burn – what to watch for 

Initial symptoms appear as superficial, irregularly shaped redness of skin within the first 12-24 hours, after which blistering, like that of a severe sunburn, shows up within 72 hours, depending on the amount of sun exposure.

Shedding of the outer layers of the skin is then followed by lingering hyperpigmentation, which should remedy on its own anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.

Itchiness, particularly during the initial symptoms, may occur.

Treatment and preventation

There is no specific remedy for PPD other than home care. Although the symptoms can be worrisome and painful to witness, especially as a parent, eventually, the symptoms fade without scarring.

However, to ease some of the discomfort caused by the initial symptoms, such as itchiness and blistering, pain relievers, antihistamines, and topical ointments (steroids) can be used. A cool compress or washcloth can also relieve some of the discomforts.

Although some may turn to photochemotherapy or bleaching to treat hyperpigmentation, there is no known effective treatment for it.

It is best to allow time for recovery and reduce sun exposure to prevent the discolouration from becoming darker.

In terms of prevention, your best bet is to immediately and thoroughly wash the exposed skin with water and soap.

As Reanna knows all too well from this experience, it is easy to blame yourself anytime something goes wrong with your children.

Reanna hopes that by sharing their experience, people become aware of the condition and its causes.

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Avatar of Gloria Ramirez

Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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