Wild Plants! Summer Season Poison Prevention

Our Wellness Wednesday column last week focused on the dangers and recommended treatments associated with North Carolina’s poisonous snakes.  This time, we turn our attention to leafy sources of summer discomfort. Less dangerous, but often more frustrating, are rashes we can get from outdoor contact with poison ivy, oak and sumac.

If hiking, camping or yardwork are part of your summer routine, take a moment before your activity to become familiar with the appearance of common forms of poisonous wild plants. Poison ivy, in particular, is a common culprit. Unfortunately, avoidance can be more difficult because it can take on a variety of appearances, depending on its condition, location and the time of year. The Carolina Nature website is one of many good resources with pictures and descriptions of common forms of poisonous wild plants.

If you believe you’ve come in contact with a poison plant, try to rinse the affected area as soon as possible with warm soapy water. This effort may allow you to rinse off the oil secreted by the plant that causes the rash. Wash your clothes as soon as possible as well, to reduce the likelihood of the poison spreading.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as difficulty breathing or swallowing, extensive swelling especially near your eyes, or widespread rashes or blisters, the American Academy of Dermatology urges you to take prompt action and visit an emergency room right away. In severe cases, dermatologists may prescribe a steroid topical ointment, or possibly even an ingestable antibiotic if you have developed an infection.