Phototoxic plants: the hidden danger


You will doubtless have heard about the children who suffered second-degree burns simply from playing with fig tree leaves…well now that the hot weather is upon us, this type of incident can happen ever more quickly.

For those unfortunate children, the phototoxic substance causing these burns was fig sap, but there are many others posing the same danger. Several plants can cause burns once contacted skin is exposed to the sun, such as parsley, fennel, dill, celery, parsnip, and even carrots. All these plants should be handled with care, along with lemon, orange, citron, bergamot, lime and mandarin trees.

These phototoxic plants affect the skin resulting in redness, blistering and peeling, always around areas of skin exposed to the sun. Anyone can be affected, even those not predisposed to skin irritations.

Some are more at risk, however, due to their profession. Those often handling limes, for example, present with more phototoxic dermatitis caused by lime rind, while people who work with celery are particularly exposed due to the phototoxic substances present in the leaves and stems of this plant.