Most of us know from childhood to avoid plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, knowing the unpleasant, itchy rash that may result. But why does contact with these plants cause such problems, and what can we do about it other than avoid them?
What Is Poison Ivy?
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that produce an oil (urushiol) that causes an allergic reaction among humans. The inflammation is a reaction to contact with any part of the plant, which leads to burning, itching, redness, and blisters. The inflammation is a form of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction to an allergen that comes into direct contact with the skin. Though unpleasant, it is thankfully not contagious. Poison ivy is more prevalent in the eastern part of the country; poison oak is more prevalent in the southeastern part of the country.
What Are the Effects of This Plant?
Poison ivy is characterized by red, itchy bumps and blisters that appear in the area that came into contact with the plant. The rash begins 1-2 days after exposure. The rash first appears in curved lines and under normal circumstances will clear up on its own in 14-21 days.
What Is the Treatment for Poison Ivy?
Treatment for exposure to these plants is designed to relieve itching and may include oral antihistamines and cortisone creams (either over-the-counter or prescription). These treatments need to be applied before blisters appear or after the blisters have dried up to be effective. In severe cases, oral or an intramuscular injections of steroids may be recommended.
The best form of prevention is to recognize and avoid contact with the plants. This can be difficult because these plants tend to grow around other vegetation. These three poison plants can be distinguished by their classic three-leaf formation. To avoid contact with these plants, wear long sleeves and pants when hiking outdoors and keep to the trails. Tuck the ends of your sleeves into gloves and the bottom of your pants into socks so that no area of skin on your arms or legs is exposed. If you think you have come into contact with a poison plant, wash the area of skin with cool water as quickly as possible to help limit the reaction. Also, wash the clothing you were wearing immediately after exposure.
Poison Ivy Treatment in Queens, NY
If your poison ivy rash is unbearable and you feel you may need something stronger than over-the-counter itch creams or antihistamines to treat it, we can help. Just submit the form below and we will be in touch as soon as possible to set up a consultation so we can prescribe whatever treatment is necessary.