Summertime means long evenings, neighborhood barbeques, and lots of time outdoors soaking up the sun and taking advantage of adventures. Summer is also the time when many plants come to maturity. Unfortunately, these include the vines and shrubs that have the capacity to create some seriously uncomfortable situations. There are definitely poisonous plants that can ruin your summer, and knowing what these are can help keep your fun on track, and not leave you miserable and in discomfort.
Of all the many plants that can be hazardous to your health, the ones you need to be the most concerned about are the those that create a contact allergy response. The three plants that are most commonly found throughout North America are Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, and even more so: Poison Ivy. These three plants contain a toxic oily substance called Urushiol which if inhaled, such as when you burn the plant; or touched, even if indirectly from clothes or gloves that have come in contact with it- can cause severe respiratory and skin responses. Itchy, swollen skin, trouble breathing (if inhaled), eye and facial swelling, or infection from scratching at affected skin are all problems that can arise from being exposed to these plants.
Although fairly easy to identify IF you know what to look for, and if you feel you may have brushed up against it, be aware that the oil can penetrate the surface of your skin in as little as 5 minutes. Rashes can take a few hours or even weeks to appear, so it’s best you follow a few simple steps as soon as possible to ensure you keep your reaction at bay and under control. First, get all your clothes into the wash as the oils on them can cause secondary exposure, then take a cool shower and lather up with soap, and finally, use an over-the-counter topical corticosteroid over any places you know may have been exposed. Always be sure to follow up with your doctor if you are concerned about your reaction or it is not going away.