Tuesday, July 05, 2016

These plants are out to get ya

Leaves of three, let me be.
Yes, there are poisonous plants--and I don't just mean poisonous-tasting (kale, you know what I am talking about).

In fact, 50 million Americans a year are attacked by toxic plant life.

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are the most common.

PI, as we called it as kids, is a three-leaf plant mostly found in the Eastern US in moist shady areas--it is a vine and can climb tree trunks,

Poison oak is also three leaves and found on the West Coast and some places in the South. It is a shrub. It may have clusters of greenish yellow or white berries.

Poison sumac is found in wet marshy regions such as riverbanks and looks like a small tree or shrub. It can get to be 115 feet high, It has 7-13 smooth, oval leaves that are arranged in pairs.

Another plant, Virginia creeper, is often mistaken for PI--but it has five leaves. It can cause skin irritation and blisters in sensitive people but is not as severe as PI.

A substance called urushiol is found in these plants year-round.

--When outdoors in "bushy" areas, wear long pants and sleeves.

--If you see a suspect plant in your garden, uproot it wearing gloves.

--Don't burn it--the smoke can cause a reaction in your lungs.

--There is also a product called Ivy Block you can get over the counter. Reapply every 4 hrs.

About 85% of people will get a rash, and 10% of those will have a bad reaction. Reaction varies by the person. I remember kids getting horrible cases when I was young...others rubbed it on themselves and gloated that they were immune. Don't do that, by the way, because your body can decide it's not immune at any time.

If you have a rash, you can transfer it to other parts of your body. Pets can also transfer the oil to you without getting it themselves.

Think you have been exposed? Wash quickly with soap and water or even rubbing alcohol (easy on that with kids).

If you get a urushiol rash, it can take 1-2 weeks to heal.

--Use a topical steroid, available over the counter.

--Calamine lotion is still helpful.

--Aluminum acetate with a cool compress can help in the blistering phase.

--Soaking in an oatmeal bath for 15-20 mins can quell some itching.

If it gets near your eyes, call the doctor and don't use cortisol on your face.

An old enemy but still around...

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