Autumn offers some of the best days to get outside and enjoy a brisk hike in the woods. However, enjoying the great outdoors can put your skin in harm’s way. In addition to threats like sunlight and insects, certain types of plant life can irritate or damage exposed skin. The most common threats come in the form of poison oak, ivy, and sumac. Touching the roots, stems, and leaves of these plants can lead to an allergic dermatitis response thanks to the oily resin known as urushiol that triggers an immune response. The main symptoms of contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac include redness, itching, rash, swelling, and blistering.
In the event that you do brush up against a poison plant, your next priority should be to effectively treat the symptoms until they disappear.
Avoiding the rashes, hives, and inflammation that come with contacting these plants starts with knowing where they’re found and what they look like. Poison ivy and oak grow throughout most of the United States and poison sumac tends to thrive in the eastern half of the country in swampy areas.
Depending on where you live and the time of year, these plants might take on slightly different appearances. Poison ivy contains almond-shaped leaves typically found in clusters of three. These leaves are green in the summer but turn red in the fall. Poison oak looks similar to poison ivy, but its leaves have scalloped edges like typical oak tree leaves. And poison sumac tends to have a variable number of leaves that always contain an odd number (usually between 5 and 13) with stems that boast the color red in the spring and brown in the fall and winter.
If you see plants that fit these descriptions, your best bet is to simply avoid touching them. Wearing protective clothing is an effective way to keep your skin from directly brushing up against their roots, stems, and leaves.
Despite your best efforts to avoid these plants, you may still come into contact with them. Symptoms like a skin rash may not appear for 12-48 hours after exposure, but once they do, the sooner you act to relieve them, the better. A severely itchy rash can make it hard to sleep and urge you to incessantly scratch at the area, making matters worse. There are multiple ways to control the itching and reduce inflammation, including:
If the above remedies aren’t effective and/or the rash continues to spread, seek help from your doctor or dermatologist. They may prescribe you stronger treatments and give you further advice on how to find relief. If your skin contains blisters that have become infected, your doctor may also drain the fluid.
Most of us have been warned about the dangers of poison ivy from a young age, but it’s easy to write them off until we actually brush up against such an irritating plant. The experts at Premier Dermatology Partners are here to help you protect your skin year-round and relieve discomfort associated with these nasty forces of nature. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.