Treating Poisonous Plant Rashes


Poison Ivy

Spring is here, and summer soon to follow. During these seasons of fun in the sun and outdoor adventures exploring nature, we may encounter some of irritating forms of plant life such as poison ivy, sumac or oak. Avoid these bad guys if at all possible. If you do meet up with them here is some good information to keep on hand, just in case.

1. If you know you touched poison ivy, sumac or oak, try to find the nearest stream or lake as soon as possible and wash the affected area (preferably with soap to help get the plant oils off). If you are able to rinse off immediately, you should be able to get rid of most of the oil, otherwise, it can spread and effect a much larger area on your skin. There are also special washes you can buy at the drugstore that remove the oils; consider throwing one in your bag. Or you can bring along some rubbing alcohol and clean the affected area with it to dissolve some of the poisonous oil. Do not use warm water. It will further the spread of poisonous oils into the deeper layers of your skin by opening your pores.

2.Change clothing as soon as possible (or wash off it if water is nearby). The oil will stay on the clothes and continue irritating your skin. Don’t forget that your bag may also be affected by the oil too.

3. Do your best not to scratch your rash. Scratching can lead to infection. If you have a cold pack, applying it to your skin can relieve some of the itching and irritation. If not, grab a rag, bandana, t-shirt or gauze, wet it, ring out well and apply to the affected area.

4. Hydrocortizone or calamine cream may be helpful when applied lightly on and around the affected skin. Burow’s solution is also used to calm a poisonous plant rash. Good to have some in your medicine cabinet.

5. If you have antihistamine pills, taking them may reduce itching and inflammation.

6. If blisters form, do not remove the skin covering them; it is protecting the raw skin underneath from getting infected.

When You Get Home:

  1. Wash your clothes and whatever else came in contact with the poisonous plant (be sure to wash them separately.)

  2. Make a cool shower to make sure all of the oils are off your body.

  3. Take lukewarm oatmeal baths to relieve itching and irritation. You can also make a bath by adding a cup of baking soda to the water.

In some people, contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac may cause a moderate to severe allergic reaction, complete with a respiratory failure. If you have a history of allergic reactions to anything, always carry an epi-pen with you. Have a couple of epi-pens regardless of your allergy history.

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