Poison Ivy

Oops! Road SignAh to quote the infamous Brittney Spears song “Oops I Did It Again”  – I did it again.

I was out in the garden and got carried away.  I knew that the area I was working in had poison ivy growing, but I threw caution to the wind and dove in any way.  I did take certain precautions – I wore long pants and gloves.  This did help a bit but the day got warm and I began to sweat.  Remembering not to touch my face with my potentially lethal hands and gloves I grabbed a part of my shirt that I thought was safe an mopped my brow with the inside of the shirt.  Need I tell you that it wasn’t safe?  I knew immediately that I was in trouble so I rushed and washed with cold water (don’t ever use warm or hot water as they tend to open your pores leaving them open for the urushiol,  the oily resin that is responsible for the rash, to enter.)

I know what poison ivy looks like.  Do you?

Here’s an easy to picture of the plant, but keep in mind that it tends to grow with other plants and can be difficult to distinguish. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has a compiled a terrific website the PLANTS Database.  The PLANTS Database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories.  You can search by scientific or common name.

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Tips for prevention from the FDA

  • Learn what poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants look like so you can avoid them (open PDF to enlarge images)4.
  • Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly. If you think you may be working around poison ivy, wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and gloves.
  • Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets are not sensitive to poison ivy, but the oil can stick to their fur and cause a reaction in someone who pets them.
  • Wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible if you come in contact with a poisonous plant. The sooner you cleanse the skin, the greater the chance that you can remove the plant oil or help prevent further spread.
  • Use the topical product “Ivy Block” if you know you will come into contact with the poisonous plants. This FDA-approved product is available over the counter (OTC).

Once you’ve got the rash ( I feel your pain) MedlinePlus has first aid advice.

Protect yourself.You don't need armor, but you do need long pants, sleeves, and gloves.

Protect yourself.You don’t need armor, but you do need long pants, sleeves, and gloves.

  • Body heat and sweating can aggravate the itching. Stay cool and apply cool compresses to your skin.
  • Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream can be applied to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
  • Bathing in lukewarm water with an oatmeal bath product, available in drugstores, may soothe itchy skin. Aluminum acetate (Domeboro solution) soaks can help to dry the rash and reduce itching.
  • If creams, lotions, or bathing do not stop the itching, antihistamines may be helpful.
  • In severe cases, especially for a rash around the face or genitals, the health care provider may prescribe steroids, taken by mouth or given by injection.

For more information visit MedlinePlus.

Happy gardening!

posted by – Susan, Health Reference

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