What is poison ivy?
Poison Ivy (Symphytum officinale) is a plant with poisonous sap which causes itchy red welts on the skin. It is not only unpleasant but also dangerous because it can cause severe allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing or even death. The leaves are used in Chinese medicine to treat many ailments including coughs, colds and other respiratory infections. The roots are used to relieve pain from arthritis, headaches and menstrual cramps.
The name “poison” comes from the Latin word poinare meaning poison and venire meaning to kill. Poison ivy is native to North America, Europe and Asia. It grows naturally in moist areas like grasslands, wooded hillsides, gardens and along roadsides where it forms thickets.
It is often found growing among rocks or under fallen logs.
When is it bad to have poison ivy?
Poison ivy may appear to be a harmless weed when first encountered, however if left unchecked, this plant will eventually take over your garden and cause damage. If you live in an area where poison ivy occurs regularly, then you need to protect yourself from its harmful effects. You should get rid of any plants that are infested with poison ivy so they don’t spread the problem further.
How do you get poison ivy?
You can catch poison ivy through contact with the plant’s toxic oils. These oils can be transferred onto your skin, or any object that comes into contact with the plant such as tools or clothing. If you touch the plant and then carelessly touch your eyes, mouth or other sensitive areas of skin before washing your hands, you will get a rash. Even if you wash your hands, it is possible that the oils will have transferred to your clothing or skin. If you are not careful, poison ivy can spread by contact throughout your body.
It is also easy to bring plants containing the toxic oils into the house on boots or clothing. These plants can then be transferred to other parts of the house and cause a rash to develop in another area of your body. It is a good idea to always check yourself for the presence of plants like this.
The rash appears as red, itchy bumps on the skin. It normally takes about twenty-four hours for the rash to appear after coming into contact with poison ivy. The rash can be found on any part of the skin that has come into contact with the oils from the plant.
What do the symptoms look like?
The symptoms of skin contact with poison ivy include an itchy rash that can appear within twenty-four hours. It normally takes about ten days for the rash to disappear completely. This type of reaction normally only occurs if you have a sensitivity or allergy to the oils in the plant.
If you inhale the airborne oils from poison ivy, you may experience similar symptoms to those found in the skin rash. These include a runny nose, coughing and sneezing.
If the oils are ingested or enter the body through open wounds, then more serious symptoms such as breathing difficulties, fever, nausea and itching may occur. In life-threatening cases of poisoning, the victim can go into toxic shock and may experience damage to internal organs.
In very rare cases, a person who has been exposed to poison ivy can develop an allergy to the oils which cause anaphylactic shock. This is a serious allergic reaction which can cause breathing difficulties and may become life-threatening. If you believe you may be allergic to poison ivy, seek immediate medical assistance.
Even after the rash disappears, it can be easy to re-infect yourself with poison ivy oils. The oils remain on the skin for several days after the rash appears. It is important to continue treating the rash to prevent further infection.
How can you tell if your skin is infected?
The rash from poison ivy appears as red bumps or blisters. It can appear anywhere on the skin that has come into contact with the plant oils. The rash normally takes about twenty-four hours to appear after exposure. It may be accompanied by:
– Redness of the skin
– Swelling of glands in the area of contact (normally the arms or legs)
How do you treat a poison ivy rash?
Once you recognize the signs and symptoms of a poison ivy rash, it is important to also recognize how to treat the infection. As soon as you notice the first signs of the rash, you will want to begin treatment immediately. The rash can be very itchy and uncomfortable.
– Wash the infected area with cool water and soap. Use an antibacterial soap for additional cleansing.
– Take an antihistamine. These can help to relieve the itchiness of the rash.
– Apply a topical cream or ointment to soothe the affected skin. Calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone are good options.
– Keep the infected area clean and dry as much as possible.
– If you believe you may have developed an allergy, seek medical assistance immediately. Allergic reactions can become life-threatening very quickly.
– Do not scratch the rash. Scratching can cause infection, or open up the skin enough that the oils become absorbed into the body. Scratching can also cause tiny skin abrasions which may then allow you to absorb the oils through your skin.
– If you begin to see signs of a secondary infection, such as redness, warmth or pus in or around the rash, seek medical assistance immediately.
– See your doctor if the rash does not begin to heal within a week.
– See a dermatologist for additional treatment if you do not notice any improvement after two weeks.
If you believe you have come into contact with poison ivy, it is important to wash your clothes as soon as possible. The oils can transfer to cloth and then make contact with your skin later. If you think you have come into contact with the oils but do not yet have any signs of a rash, wash the area thoroughly with cool water and soap.
Use hand sanitizer after washing to remove any remaining oils from your hands. If you develop a rash, see a dermatologist as soon as possible. The rash can spread rapidly, so it is important to get prescription treatment early on. Alternatively, antihistamine treatment can help you get through the rash until you can see a doctor.
Poisonous plants are found all over the world. It is important to take the time to learn about dangerous plants in your area and how to treat any potential exposure. The rashes that result from poisonous plant contact can become infected, so it is important to take all the necessary steps to prevent this from occurring.
A rash from poison plant contact can be very itchy and uncomfortable. The rash can cover large portions of your body, or it may just be a small spot where the plant oil came in direct contact with your skin. In some rare cases, the rash will spread to other areas of your body if you have an allergic reaction to the oils.
The longer you wait to treat your rash, the more uncomfortable and itchy you will become as the rash spreads.
If you have had an allergic reaction to a poisonous plant, you need to seek immediate medical attention. The doctor will likely give you a shot of epinephrine to halt the spread of the rash. He may also prescribe an anti-allergy medication.
It is important to follow your doctors instructions and take your medication regularly. If you do not treat the rash early on, it can lead to a whole series of other problems with your body such as infection or temporary paralysis.
Poisonous plants are not uncommon and can be found in many areas of the world. It is important to learn what types of plants are poisonous in your area. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, it is wise to carry a plant reference guide with you so that you can easily identify any poisonous plants that you come across.
While there is no way to tell exactly how a human body will react to poisonous plants, there are some general guidelines in place for treatment.
If you have already come in contact with the poisonous plant and do not yet have any of the physical symptoms, it is very important that you wash the area thoroughly as soon as possible. Use plenty of cool water to rinse away any remaining oils or chemicals from the plant. If the oil has gotten into your eyes, nose, or mouth, be sure to wipe or wash it away carefully with cool water.
If you have already come in contact with the poisonous plant and are experiencing physical effects, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention. Be sure to let the doctor know exactly what type of plant caused the allergic reaction so that he can give you the correct treatment. If you have been given an anti-allergy injection, be sure to get a new shot once a month for the next three months.
This will help your body build up an immunity to the allergen.
Sources & references used in this article:
Oriental lacquer, poison ivy, and drying oils by O Vogl – Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 2000 – Wiley Online Library
Occupational poison ivy and oak dermatitis by WL Epstein – Dermatologic clinics, 1994 – derm.theclinics.com
Possible health and safety problems in the use of novel plant essential oils and extracts in aromatherapy by M Lis-Balchin – The journal of the Royal Society for the …, 1999 – journals.sagepub.com
Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review by B Ali, NA Al-Wabel, S Shams, A Ahamad… – Asian Pacific Journal of …, 2015 – Elsevier
Toxicodendron dermatitis: poison ivy, oak, and sumac by AC Gladman – Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, 2006 – Elsevier
Contact Dermatitis Due to Oil of Citronella: Report of 3 Cases with Experimental Studies on Ingredients and Related Substances by H Keil – Journal of Investigative dermatology, 1947 – core.ac.uk
Poison ivy relief composition by NV Duhe, DL Hendrix – US Patent 4,259,318, 1981 – Google Patents