Not all plants are nice. The old saying goes: “Leaves of three, let them be.” Poison Ivy, oak and sumac are three plants that carry the same poison – urushiol, a colorless, odorless oil which causes an itchy, irritating rash. Other not so nice plants that affect the skin and grow in North America include, wild parsnip, giant hogweed, and stinging nettle.
You may become exposed through multiple ways.
Those ways include, direct contact, indirect contact such as touching animals, tools, clothing with urushiol on them and inhalation of particles containing urushiol from burning plants. Symptoms include red rash, swelling, itching, bumps, patches, streaking or blisters.
If you have been exposed to a poisonous plant, immediately rinse the exposed area with rubbing alcohol, degreasing soap or poison plant wash. Ensure you clean under your nails with a brush. Apply calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and wet compresses to reduce itching and blistering.
Tips for protecting your skin from poisonous plants:
Wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and boots. Remove clothing immediately up arriving home and always wash separately with warm water and detergent.
- Skin Cream
Lotions and barrier skin creams containing bentoquatum offer protection.
- Clean your tools
Urushiol can remain active on the surface of objects for up to 5 years. Clean your exposed tools using rubbing alcohol and/or degreasing soap plus lots of water. Wear disposable gloves while cleaning.
- Do NOT Burn
Never burn brush/tree piles or plants that may contain poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak. Inhaling this smoke can cause severe allergic respiratory problems. If burning is unavoidable, wear a NIOSH-certified, half-face piece particulate respirator, rated R-95, P-95 or better.
- Pay attention to your surroundings
Bottom line, look down! Pay attention to your surroundings and get to know what poisonous plants may be growing where you live.