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Poison Sumac, poison oak and poison ivy are unique plants that use an oil called Urushiol to protect itself. When Urushiol comes in contact with skin, it can cause a variety of reactions from a basic rash to the skin bubbling and burning to severe allergic reactions. It usually takes two to three weeks for the body to overcome the reactions, but there are faster ways to help your body fight this oil.
Dermatologists believe that 15% of the population will not have any sort of allergic reaction to Urushiol. Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to suffer the consequences. The plant itself is widespread for much of the US and Canada and chances are you will encounter the plant. Knowing what the plant looks like is your first line of defense for dealing with these plants. The leaves are thin, shiny and of course, green. It has three leaves and the edges are usually irregular. The rule of thumb is “Leaves of three, Leave it be!” If you have to work in or around poison ivy, wear long pant, socks, shoes and socks, long sleeve shirts and gloves. The worst is getting poison ivy on your hands! Also don’t burn poison ivy because the oils can become air born!
If you do all that and find yourself feeling that itch, don’t scratch it. Scratching will spread the Urushiol around and create more of a problem. It will take about 48 hours for the symptoms to occur. It will start as small red, itchy spots. After that, they may become blistered and start to ooze. Stay inside and cool. The warm air will cause the oil to penetrate easier into your pores. Wash your skin immediately with cold water. Don’t scrub or use hot water. Don’t use soap because it can loosen the oil, but it may not wash off. Wash your nails because the oils can stay under your finger nails and cause more spreading. Let your skin air dry. It will help with reducing the itch and the oozing. The ooze is just bodily fluids and not the oil.
The real trick is to get rid of the Urushiol and it is very easy to do. Mineral spirits like Tecnu can kill the oil. Paint thinner or gasoline can also work but be very careful. It will dry your skin out and you run the risk of setting your hand on fire. It is not recommended to use paint thinner or gasoline. If you do decided to use it, let it sit on your skin for a few minutes and then thoroughly wash your skin. It should take a few days for the swelling to reduce, followed by cracking and flaking.
Although getting rid of the Urushiol is easy, the symptoms can drive people crazy. Antihistamines don’t work very well for eliminating the itch because of the type of reaction poison ivy has. It is a type IV delayed hypersensitive reaction, unlike an anaphylaxis reaction that most people get with pollen, cat hair or other common allergies. Antihistamines can help with sleeping and reducing the chances of itching while you are sleeping. Jewelweed-based products can help and is a natural remedy. Another remedy to help you get through the itch is calamine lotion. It will help calm the itch and redness and dry the blisters. Other remedies include. Prescription strength Hydrocortisone can help dramatically. See you family doctor for his decision. There are more dramatic drugs that can be described depending on how sever your rash is like Clobex or Prednisone.
write by Terry Apfel