Summer is a great time for camping, hiking or just being outside, but it’s also a good time for poison oak, ivy and sumac. There is a great possibility that you’ll run into one of these during camping or hiking trips.
The easiest way to avoid these plants is to know what they look like and watch out for them. Poison oak grows as a vine or shrub and usually has three leaves, but can contain up to seven leaves per group. Poison sumac will be a shrub or small tree and has seven to thirteen leaves per leaf stem. Poison ivy grows as a shrub and will most likely have three broad, pointed leaves but it can have more.
About 70 percent of the population is sensitive to the oils in poison oak, ivy or sumac, resulting in an itchy rash with blisters after contact. A rash can develop anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 days after contact! And the rash can last from 10 days to three weeks. That is a lot of time to deal with an itchy, annoying rash. Some people who are more sensitive will obviously have a worse reaction, but the severity of the reaction also depends on how much contact was made and what area of the skin was exposed to the poisonous plant.
If you have been exposed to poison oak, ivy or sumac before, then your symptoms will most likely show up sooner than the first time you were exposed to the plant. The rash that develops will usually start out with redness and skin swelling, and then it will develop into bumps or blisters. The first signs of contact are usually itchy skin, red streaks and redness on that area of skin.
If you are very sensitive to the plant oils, then more serious symptoms may develop, including swelling of face, neck and eyelids and widespread, large blisters.
Once you have come into contact with the poisonous plants, wash the exposed area of skin with cold water as soon as possible. Don’t scrub the area; just allow the water to run over the skin, washing the oils away. Also, remove the clothes you were wearing and take a warm shower. Finally, wash the exposed clothes in hot water.
Calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, baking soda and white vinegar and oral antihistamines are ways to provide relief from the itching and help with healing.