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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!


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.