Though many people are aware of substances and plants that can irritate the skin, such as poison ivy, there remain many that get overlooked. These include citrus fruits, which are largely viewed as harmless.
Julian Trevino, M.D., professor and chair of dermatology at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, was interviewed by the American Academy of Dermatology about how to avoid skin irritants.
“The best way to avoid skin irritation is to identify the plants and insects that can cause adverse reactions and avoid exposure to them,” Trevino said. “If you think you’ll be coming into contact with something that could cause skin problems — either because it has affected your skin in the past or you have heard it can cause a reaction — you can take preventive measures.”
Watch out for poison ivy and poison oak by staying away from plants with “leaves of three.” While hiking or gardening where the plants are common, Trevino recommends wearing appropriate clothing and applying a barrier of cream to the skin for protection.
Trevino notes the risk of irritation posed by citrus fruits during summer time. A combination of ultraviolet radiation and exposure to some citrus fruits may result in a condition called phytophotodermatitis. This causes a rash and hyperpigmentation, or the darkening of areas of skin.
“People may think they’re more likely to develop a rash while hiking in the woods than enjoying a drink by the pool,” Trevino said. “But if that drink happens to be a margarita or a beer with a lime, they could end up with itchy red skin at the end of the day.”