Spending time outdoors comes with numerous health benefits: exercise, sunshine, and fresh air are fundamental to mental and physical wellness. However, adventuring into the wild comes with the risk of acquiring certain rashes and stings. While spending time in nature, three plants, in particular, can cause a rash for most people:
- Poison Oak. It grows as a low shrub in Eastern and Southern states and a long vine along the West coast. It can have three leaves but has up to seven with deep tooth-like edges around each leaf.
- Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy is well-known for the saying "leaves of three, let it be." The vine with glossy leaves grows through the contiguous United States and changes colors depending on the season.
- Poison Sumac. Sumac grows as a shrub or a tree and is found in wooded and swampy areas. The leaves of Sumac are pointed with smooth edges.
All three plants contain a poisonous oil called urushiol. It is an irritating agent that causes rashes in most people. However, those who come in contact with it for the first time as well as about 15% of the population show no symptoms at all.
What To Know if You Get a Rash
Typically, it takes a rash from these plants about 24 to 72 hours to develop, but it can take up to a week. It is not likely to spread to others even if someone comes in contact with a broken blister.
The best way to handle these poisonous plants is through prevention. Clothes can be protective, so wear long sleeves and gloves. Keep pants tucked into boots to avoid accidentally coming into contact with any of these plants. Wear closed-toed shoes that you can remove before entering your home.
If your skin does come into contact with any poisonous plants, wash your skin as quickly as possible. If you can't wash your skin, use rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes. Wash your clothes, shoes, and any gardening tools that may have come into contact with it.
Also, wash any pets that may have come into contact with poisonous plants. While pets do not get rashes from urushiol, they can spread it to humans on their fur. Use pet shampoo and gloves to get any oil off of them.
A rash can last anywhere from one to three weeks. If you do develop a rash, keep the area clean, cool, and dry. Be sure not to scratch your rash, which increases the risk of causing an infection. You can treat the discomfort of a rash from home with calamine lotion, hydrocortisone topical cream, and antihistamines.
When to See a Doctor
While uncomfortable, most rashes do not need medical attention. However, if the rash is close to the eyes or widespread across the body, a doctor should check it out. Any pus or soft yellow scabs should also be checked by a medical professional.
If you become concerned with exposure to urushiol, Patient Plus Urgent Care is available with seven locations open seven days a week. As always, we're ready to help you Get In & Get Better.
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Patient Plus treats most common illnesses and injuries — the sniffles, rashes, fevers, aches, breaks, and other conditions that deserve prompt treatment but aren’t serious enough to require a trip to the nearest emergency room. The clinics provide complete diagnostic services, including X-rays, EKGs, and flu and strep tests. Other services include physicals, vaccinations, and more. Patient Plus clinics are open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and patients never need to call first or make an appointment.