02/10/2014 09:34 am ET Updated Mar 26, 2014

Montezuma's Other Revenge

Last month, I went to the Riviera Maya in Mexico for a long weekend. My hotel, the Azul Sensatori, was a luxury all-inclusive place. Along with abundant food options, guests were invited to sample as much tequila as humanly possible. At the buffet-style Siena restaurant, you could choose from a dazzling display of a dozen brands of the golden liquid at breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Azul Sensatori's nearby sister resort Azul Beach Hotel, you could kill a night and a million brain cells at the Agavero Tequila Lounge, home of the only frozen bar in the Yucatan Peninsula. They offered 30 different types of tequila and hundreds of brands. At their weekly tasting, I might've learned a lot about the difference between blanco, reposado and añejo tequila if I weren't dancing my ass off. When you drink a few shots of what my friend called "liquid cocaine," you don't feel drunk. You just feel happy.

Before the trip, I fantasized about doing shots at the swim-up pool bar. I hoped to enjoy a margarita before my open-air beach massage, and to wash the taste of saltwater out of my mouth après reef snorkel with one. I got to do all those things! And it was fabulous! The good bartenders at Azul Sensatori artfully presented each drink, be it on the rocks or frozen, with a juicy slice of fresh lime.

Too soon, my Mexican sun-and-fun weekend came to a close. While packing my bags, I noticed that the skin on the back of my hands felt prickly. I took a closer look and found a few raised red bumps. By the time I got on the plane, both of my hands, my left cheek and a large patch under my jaw were covered in a rash. I'd fallen asleep on a pool chaise the day before, with my chin resting on my hands. I figured it was a heat rash. I'd never seen a heat rash rage like this, though.

Back at home, I used cortisol. The rash got worse. The bumps spread into an angry red puff. My hands looked like lobster claws. The patch on my jaw was so swollen and inflamed that it seemed like I had a double chin on just one side. Besides the disfigurement, it burned and itched. My husband urged me to go to the dermatologist. By day three I relented.

The doc took one look at me and said, "Have you been traveling recently?"

"I just got back from Mexico," I said.

"Did you come into contact with any limes there?"

I burst out laughing. I could have taken a bath in all the lime juice I slurped down at Azul Sensatori. "Uh, yes. I did touch a few."

The diagnosis: phytophotodermatitis, the painful result of combining the chemicals in certain plants, like citrus fruits, and sunlight. He gave me a prescription for clobetasol propionate ointment. After a week of twice-daily applications, the rash subsided. It was another week before my hands and face looked normal.

The moral to this story: Whether you're in Mexico or just hanging around at home during flu season, a shot of tequila is excellent for your disposition. But please remember to frequently wash your hands.