April 18th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

What is this sudden weird, brown rash?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Monique, Maryland

I have had a weird rash on my hands for about a week. It started out like blisters after I was outside one day but now is flat and brown. It does not hurt or itch but does seem to be getting a little lighter. I'm not on any medications and did not use any sunscreen or skin products that day. What could be causing this?
Expert answer

Thanks for your question! As the weather gets nicer and people spend more time in the sun, I hear this same story quite often. You may be experiencing what is called "phytophotodermatitis," or a reaction of the skin involving the sun and chemicals that can be found in items such as limes, lemons, parsnips, celery, parsley, figs, other plants and perfumes. A common scenario involves a person cutting or squeezing limes before going out to the pool or beach.

This type of skin rash can last for several weeks or even months but typically goes away on its own without any treatment. Sometimes the rash can be painful or feel like burning at first; oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines and corticosteroid creams may help. Oral steroids may be prescribed if the rash is severe. Washing the skin well and applying sunscreen before heading outdoors can prevent phytophotodermatitis from occurring.

Since your skin is already improving, it will most likely continue to do so without intervention. However, if you have any questions or new symptoms, be sure to contact your physician for further advice and treatment.

Good luck!

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Joe


    April 18, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ChrisRadcliffe

    Nailed it! I just got back from Mexico with these same symptoms, must be the limes they served with the beer poolside.

    April 18, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jerry Lundegaard

    Its Obama.

    April 18, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bonz

      You're an idiot.

      April 19, 2011 at 04:04 | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    Jerry Lundegaard when you get a brown rash it is not obama that gave it to it was the bush!

    April 18, 2011 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jm

    Why is a pediatrician answering a question that would
    be best answered by a dermatologist? Just wondering..... Weird
    She failed to mention syphillis and Lyme/rocky mountain spotted fever........next time ask a dermatologist

    April 18, 2011 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      @Jim Yes, you can ask a dermatologist, but for something like a general doctor would normally work. If they don't know it, then go to the dermatologist...You'll save yourself money. As for syphilis, the rash you are thinking about would be secondary syphilis and would not just be localized to the hands, but would most likely occur on the palms and trunk also. Lyme disease typically has a very characteristic bulleye's rash, but Monique had bilateral hand rashes and hyperpigmentation. If she had rocky mountain spotted fever, she would have started out with a fever and as the name it would be a spotted rash. Not the blisters she described.

      @Bobo. Syphilis does start with a painless lesion on the genital, but those lesion go away after after 4-6 weeks. People here are thinking of secondary syphilis, which does create a rash on the trunks and extremities.

      April 23, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse |
  6. Kabra

    Jm that's just what I was thinking. It does sound like a classic description of syphillis.

    April 19, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. bobo

    You are both idiots syphillis doesnt start on the hands, you know where it starts? Let me give you a hint...you get syphillis by using other parts of your body (below the waist)...And RMSF and Lyme dz generally have associated symtomps with the rash, also the rash that you get with them does not sound like what she is describing. -A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    April 19, 2011 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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