This is the time of the year where we all like to enjoy the outdoors. It's also the time of the year that poison ivy may be a hazard on mountain trails and other places we frequent during the summer months. I've put together a short, but comprehensive bit of information on poison ivy
Causes of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash
The rash caused by poison ivy, oak, and sumac is an allergic skin reaction to an oil, called urushiol, which is in the plant. This oil is found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, roots, and berries.
Exposure to the oil occurs through any of the following:
Touching any part of the plants
Touching clothing or other objects that have contacted the plants
Touching pets or other animals that have contacted the plants
Exposure to the smoke of burning plants
For more information about how these reactions occur, see Allergic Reactions and Contact Dermatitis.
Symptoms of Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Rash
Exposure to poison ivy, oak, or sumac causes an itching rash that usually appears within 24-72 hours.
The rash usually starts as small red bumps, and later develops blisters of variable size. The rash may crust or ooze.
The rash may be found anywhere on the body that has contacted the oil from the plant. It can have any shape or pattern, but is often in straight lines or streaks across the skin.
Different skin areas can break out at different times, making it seem as if the rash is spreading.
Contrary to popular belief, leakage of blister fluid does not spread the rash. It is spread only by additional exposure to the oil, which often lingers on hands, clothing and shoes (which are often overlooked as carriers), or tools
When to Seek Medical Care
See your health care provider if you have the following conditions:
Large areas of rash causing significant discomfort
Rash on your mouth, genitals, or around your eyes
An area of the rash that becomes infected or drains pus
A great deal of swelling
People who are highly sensitive to these plants can get a severe reaction, called anaphylaxis.
If you have swelling of the face and throat or difficulty breathing, feel dizzy or faint, or lose consciousness, you may be having an anaphylactic reaction.
If you have any of these symptoms, go immediately to a hospital emergency department.
Do not attempt to drive yourself; if no one is available to drive you immediately, call 911 for emergency medical treatment.
While waiting for the ambulance to come, begin self-treatment measures
Avoid these plants. Learn what they look like in your area. Be aware that their appearance can vary with the seasons.
Do not burn the plants. Burning can release the allergens into the air.
Wear proper clothing to protect your skin, such as gloves, long sleeves, and long pants.
Bathe pets that may have the oil on their fur. Use soapy water. Do not forget to wear protective clothing while doing this.
Wash any clothing that might contain the plant oil. Unwashed clothes can retain the oil and cause a rash in anyone who wears or handles them.
Before you go out in a potentially infested area, you can apply nonprescription products such as Ivy Block or Stokoguard, which act as a barrier to the oils.
Remember that the oil can be transferred from people, pets, or objects. Thoroughly wash anything that may carry the oil.