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Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) (Rhus radicans)
Climbing or three-leaved ivy. Poison oak. Climath. Mercury.
A plant of many sizes and shapes, but with leaves that always consist of three leaves with pointed tips, the middle leaf on a long stalk. The shape of the leaves varies greatly, oak like, plain or with teeth, smooth or lightly hairy.
All the poison ivy or sumac releases a white juice when a leaf or stem is broken. This juice turns black on exposure to the air and carries in it the poisonous resin toxicodendrol that cause the skin of a sensitive person to develop allergic symptoms on contact. Burning poison ivy or sumac leaves, twigs, and roots releases this resin in tiny drops on parts of the ash and dust in the smoke and can still cause severe reactions. There is no cure for the allergic symptoms but there are many treatments.
The result of contact with one of these plants is a red, bumpy skin rash, usually on areas of the body where the skin is thinnest, likes the arms, shins and face. There may be swelling near the rash, which usually progresses to itchy blisters that ooze, harden and then crack. The rash may appear as early as a few hours or as late as 2 weeks after exposure. What determines how soon a person reacts after exposure is how sensitive he or she is to the plant and the number of previous times the person has been exposed to it.
The rash reaches its peak about 5 days after it begins. The blisters break open, releasing a watery liquid. Healing usually takes 1 to 2 weeks.
Most cases of poison ivy, oak or sumac can be cared for at home and don't require a trip to a doctor. However, a small percentage of people are highly allergic. If you break out in a rash within 4 hours of exposure and your eyes swell shut and blisters form, seek medical attention immediately.
To care for poison ivy, oak or sumac at home:
Wash the area thoroughly with lots warm water. If the skin is washed immediately after exposure to the poisonous plant, a rash may not develop
To relieve itching: apply cotton cloths soaked in cool water or colloidal ointment like Aveeno bar to the area, or sponge the skin with alcohol
Try soaking in a slightly warm bath with Aveeno or baking soda added to help with healing
Apply calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda and water over the rash
Take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton.
Pregnant women should consult their physician prior to taking any over-the-counter medication. Other people, including those with medical conditions are advised to read product labels carefully and consult a pharmacist if they have questions about use.
Clothing exposed to the poisonous plant should be washed. Shoes or clothing that can't be washed should be kept isolated in a well ventilated area for 3 weeks.
If the rash becomes extremely severe and painful, making normal activity difficult, or if any of the following symptoms appear, you should consult a doctor:
The blisters continue to ooze longer than two weeks a fever develops, or
Herbs For Poison Ivy
Jewel weed is a member of the impatiens family, and tends to grow near poison ivy. To be most effective, it should be applied as soon after touching the poison ivy as possible. The best way to identify jewel weed is via its flowers, however, we often contact poison ivy earlier in the year than when jewel weed is flowering.
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