Thursday, April 03, 2008
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are plants that contain an irritating, oily sap called urushiol. Urushiol triggers an allergic reaction when it comes into contact with skin, resulting in an itchy rash, which can appear within hours of exposure or up to several days later. A person can be exposed to urushiol directly or by touching objects -- such as gardening tools, camping equipment and even a pet's fur -- that have come into contact with the sap of one of the poison plants. poison sumac is far more virulent than its relatives poison ivy and poison oak. According to some botanists, poison sumac is the most toxic plant species in the United States
Urushiol is found in all parts of these plants, including the leaves, stems and roots, and is even present after the plant has died. Urushiol is absorbed quickly into the skin. It can also be inhaled if the poison plants are burned. The smoke may expose not only the skin to the chemical but also the nasal passages, throat and lungs. Inhaled urushiol can cause a very serious allergic reaction.
The affected area will get red and swollen. A day or so later, small blisters will begin to form, and the rash will become very itchy. During this time, it's important to try to keep from scratching the blisters. Bacteria from under your fingernails can get into the blisters and cause an infection. After about a week, the blisters will start to dry up and the rash will start to go away.
Once a rash starts to develop, there are several over-the-counter medications you can use to relieve the itching, including:
Hydrocortisone creams (brand name: Cortizone-10)
Antihistamine tablets (one brand name: Benadryl)
You should call your doctor if:
You have fever over 100 degrees
The rash covers large areas of your body
The rash is in your eyes, mouth or on your genital area
There is pus coming from the blisters
The rash does not get better after a few days
*Notice the vine is "hairy" and you will see these vines even when the leaves are gone.
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