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If you love to landscape or hike, then you are going to find yourself spending a lot of time outside in nature. While you are in the great outdoors, you should always be mindful of poisonous plants. The big three that you are most likely to encounter are poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak. These plants are as common in rural Pennsylvania, as they are in Narberth. Avoid ruining weeks of summer by knowing what to look for when outside.
All three of these plants contain the chemical substance known as urushiol. This chemical is what causes the itchy, blistery rash to appear on your skin. It’s important to remember that this substance is just a chemical, not a virus or bacteria. That means once you’ve washed it off of your clothes and skin, the rash is no longer contagious. However, until then you can leave traces of this substance on everyday household objects and spread the rash by absent-mindedly touching your face or other people. You probably don’t realize how often you do this throughout the day. So, when spending any length of time outside, it’s always important to wash your hands when you come in.
Poison ivy is usually seen growing close to the ground like a vine or shrub. It can be found as likely in your yard as it could be in a local park. This plant grows throughout much of the United States except Alaska, Hawaii, and desert environments. When you come across the plant, you’ll notice it has leaves arranged in groups of three. This has led to the helpful phrase, “Leaves of three, leave them be." During certain times of the year, poison ivy may be found with small flowers or light-colored berries.
Poison oak plants are distinct from poison ivy plants as their leaves have smooth and curved edges like an oak tree as opposed to poison ivy, who’s leaves have jagged edges.
Poison sumac is, unfortunately, one of the hardest plants to recognize in nature and can cause a much more severe rash than poison ivy or poison oak. They are hard to pick out because they often blend in as just a shrub or a small tree. Each branch of these plants will have around 13 leaves, arranged in pairs. Fortunately, the environment you’ll find these plants is rather limited. Poison sumac usually grows in only very wet areas, such as riverbanks or swampy environments.
If you come in contact with this plant and get urushiol on your skin, you can develop a rash. If this rash becomes severe, other symptoms such as fever, swelling, and blisters may develop. In rare cases, a person may develop an anaphylactic reaction. If you suspect this is happening to you or someone else, please seek immediate medical care. Hikers, farmers, construction workers, and groundskeepers are at high risk of meeting one of these plants. This risk is compounded if their work often involves touching plants or debris. If you find you have developed a rash, it will usually clear up on its own in about one to three weeks. Over the counter, anti-itch creams and sprays should reduce the more annoying symptoms associated with the rash. If the rash lingers, doctors can prescribe topical steroids to help finally knock it out. Remember, as long as you have washed your skin and clothes, a rash is no longer contagious.
When outside in an environment that may have one of these poisonous plants, experts suggest you wear protect clothing and avoid plants you don’t recognize. Following these two simple tips will go a long way towards preventing contact with any dangerous plants. If you do identify a poisonous plant, use pesticides to get rid of them instead of pulling them up by hand. Never burn any of these plants as it could cause the rash-causing chemical to become airborne, spreading a rash to your throat and lungs. This reaction can be life-threatening.
If you feel you may have come in contact with any of these poisonous plants but aren’t sure, visit the board-certified doctors at AFC Urgent Care Narberth today! We’ll find out for sure and show you the best ways to protect yourself and your family from these plants.
With state-of-the-art centers and a professional medical team, AFC provides on-site X-rays, labs, procedures, and more!
Urgent care is for medical conditions that require prompt attention but do not pose an immediate threat to your health or life. Here is a simple rule of thumb: if your medical issues(s) are life threatening, call 911, or go directly to a hospital emergency room. If not, an urgent care center such as AFC is an excellent alternative.