Health professionals are urging the public to be cautious of poisonous plants


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — As restrictions on shut downs begin to ease up, a lot of people are spending more time outdoors, doing various activities such as hiking and biking. While physically distanced outdoor activity is low risk for COVID-19, health professionals are warning people to be cautious of poisonous plants.

According to the American Skin Association, about 85 percent of the population is allergic to poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, and about 10 to 15 percent are extremely allergic.

This is the most common allergic reaction in the U.S., and affects as many as 50 million Americans each year.

Plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac contain an oil called urushiol that is very irritating to the skin, and can cause a rash that is known as contact dermatitis. This can be very red, itchy, and bumpy,  and can cause serious reactions to people’s health, health experts say.

Some experts estimate that 3 out of 4 people are sensitive to the urushiol found in these plants, although the degree of sensitivity varies

“So what you need to know about these plants, is that this is a very sticky oily substance that is on all areas of the plant at all times, and even when the plant appears dead, you can still get this oil on you. Even if you’re burning it, it can be aerosolized in the air and if you inhale it, through your nose and lungs it can be harmful,” said Michelle Hoskstra Nurse Practitioner at MinuteClinic

To prevent poison ivy rash, follow these tips:

  1. Avoid the plants. Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac in all seasons
  2. Wear protective clothing
  3. Remove or kill the plants
  4. Wash your skin or your pet’s fur
  5. Clean contaminated objects
  6. Apply a barrier cream

If you do come in contact with these plants somethings health professionals say you can take oatmeal baths, use cool compresses, and you can also apply calamine lotion, but if the reaction is serious health professionals say seek medical attention.


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