Poison ivy is one of the most toxic plants seen in trails, roadsides, cleared land, and wild areas. It is very common in the U.S. A distinct characteristic of this plant is that it thrives in areas where many species cannot manage to survive.
Poison ivy contains urushiol, an oily mix of organic compounds with allergenic properties and irritants. This is why skin exposure to poison ivy may lead to allergic contact dermatitis. Aside from skin contact, poison ivy also causes harm when inhaled. This can occur when poison ivy is burned and the urushiol goes with the smoke passes. This is quite harmful and can compromise breathing.
Because the plant is toxic and common, it is important to learn more about it. Let’s start by learning how to spot poison ivy. After that, we can move on to identifying symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis, including treatment options.
How to Spot Poison Ivy
In order to prevent yourself from being exposed to poison ivy, it is essential to know what this plant looks like more than by identifying the number of leaves in its stem. In addition to having some of its stems three leaves, poison-ivies have side stems with two leaves which look shorter than the stems in the middle. Patients should also know that its leaves are most of the time not symmetrical and are mostly red or green and shiny in nature.
Another important description of poison ivy is that its leaves are all smooth-edged but are either lobed or toothed in appearance. As for its height, it is not commonly very tall and can be a bushy shrub growing at the maximum height of four feet tall. When the plant reaches its maturity, it bears some sort of berries that are colored green and develops into some sort of cream color when it grows.
Poison ivy prefers disturbed areas where most plants don’t grow or mature. This is because the sunlight triggers it to grow quickly. Meaning, places that are considered disturbed have limited sunlight that hinders it from easily growing.
How to Know That You Have Been in Contact With Poison Ivy
The initial indication that you have been in contact with poison ivy is a skin rash that appears in four hours at the minimum and 10 days at the maximum after being exposed to it. Indications that the rash is caused by the plant is that it blisters, itches, swells and has redness that appears in lines or in streaks.
The allergic reaction severity varies on a person’s sensitivity level to toxic substances and the level of urushiol. A study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians show that the usual length of allergic reaction from poison ivy is three weeks at the longest. Drying of the blisters usually starts after a week followed by the fading of the rash. However, if it’s your first time to be exposed to urushiol, expect the rash to disappear after three or four weeks at the latest.
How to Know that the Allergic Reaction Warrants Medical Help
Having rashes caused by exposure to poison ivy mostly not warrant for a medical help as these disappear on its own. However, if the allergies appear to be widespread on your body, then it is just important to ask assistance from your doctor to address the discomfort that you may be feeling and prevent your risk from further serious complications it can cause. In addition to this, you also need to seek medical help if you get a fever along with the rashes. Having rashes in your mouth, genital area, eyes also warrant you to ask immediate medical treatment.
It is also important to observe changes in the appearance of the rashes. Watch out for signs of pus or yellow scabs appearing on the rash. Should you find any, ask assistance from any doctor near you as this could cause other skin infections.
Poison Ivy Complications
Among the serious but common complications by being exposed to poison ivy is the severe swelling of the face and the eyes. Aside from these, infections of the rashes can also occur as you scratch the area affected by the toxic plant. When these happen, initial treatment of antibiotics is important. Scarring can also occur but this will disappear after months and should not be a cause for a serious medical concern.
How to Treat Poison Ivy Allergic Reactions
Self-care is the most recommended treatment for managing allergic reactions from poison ivy. This is essential to relieve discomfort caused by contact with urushiol. For first-aid treatment, rinse the affected area with a gentle soap. One should also disinfect the clothes that have been in contact with the plant.
Ibuprofen and naproxen are the common anti-inflammatory treatments that you can combine with antihistamines to address the allergies. As for the lotions, you can also apply calamine lotion or over-the-counter steroid on the rashes.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
One of the ways to prevent from being exposed to poison ivy is to eliminate the plant from your home. You can do this through the use of herbicide. You can also opt to pull poison ivy plant out if you spot one. However, make sure that you have heavy gloves on you before you do. After removing the plant, wash both your hands and the gloves thoroughly.
Also, don’t burn poison ivy even if you have already removed it from roots. This could cause respiratory troubles on your family. Instead, enclose it in a bin bag and have it ready to be picked up immediately by the garbage truck.