With summer approaching, it is important to understand how to prevent contact with poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. These plants thrive in summer weather and, and their stems and leaves are covered in a layer of oil called urushiol. Once this oil comes into contact with your skin, it causes red bumps that irritate and inflame the skin. These reactions usually occur within 12-72 hours of contact, and can last around 12-20 days. Sometimes it can take over 2 weeks for the rash to emerge. Some individuals require exposure to large amounts or urushiol to develop rashes while others can develop severe symptoms after a minute exposure. Not everyone in the population reacts to poison ivy. The oil can stay on pet hair, clothes, and objects if not washed and can continue to cause reactions on the skin. However, you cannot spread the rash to other areas or your body or other people once the oil is washed off.
Although severe reactions are uncommon, the symptoms listed below are signs of a reaction that require emergency care:
- Swelling in the throat, mouth, eyelids and tongue
- A blistering rash that covers a large section of the body
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Severe itching sensations
If you do come into contact with these poisonous plants, but are not showing the above symptoms, you most likely have a mild form of the rash and treatment is easy:
- Quickly wash the affected area using lukewarm, soapy water
- Wash clothing, shoes and all apparel that may have oil on it
- Place a cool compress on the affected area
- Apply OTC or prescription hydrocortisone cream on the affected area
- Consider taking an antihistamine to reduce your reaction
In the event that you or someone you know comes into contact with poison ivy, oak or poison sumac stop by AFC Urgent Care Waltham for quick and low-cost treatment, that requires no appointment. Our clinic is located at 1030 Main Street, Waltham MA, for more information call 781-894-6900.