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4 North American Plants To Identify & Avoid!

Poison Ivy

What is it?

Poison Ivy can be found as a vine, climbing on a support such as a fence or tree, a trailing vine, cascading from a stalk, or as a shrub. The sap of this plant contains urushiol which is the compound responsible for the common allergic reaction when it comes in contact with your skin. Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that develops into reddish inflammation or uncolored bumps, and then blistering. This reaction can last anywhere from five to twelve days though, in less likely cases, some may not experience a reaction at all or may experience a rash for a month or more. Reactions will certainly vary from person to person.


Identification

"Leaves of three, let it be!" If you've been around poison ivy, you've probably heard this saying before. The saying of course is in reference to the leaves of the plant that tend to come in a group of three. These leaves can either be saw-toothed or smooth around the edges and can change color in the fall. It's considered a flowering plant and, in spring, you might even find it with small white flowers.


Treatment

If you can act quickly, the first step you can take is to wash the affected area with soapy water. This can help remove the oil from your skin either eliminating or minimizing the impact. If you cannot wash the affected area and a serious reaction occurs, your only treatment option is of the symptoms. Calamine lotion, dedicated commercial poison ivy itch creams, or baths to relieve discomfort. Over-the-counter products to ease itching—or simply oatmeal baths and baking soda—are now recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of poison ivy.

 

Poison Oak

What is it?

Poison Oak can be found as a tall shrub, a tree-like vine, a dense thicket, or any form in between. Poison oak, although not a member of the oak family, gets its name from the oak appearance of its lobed leaves. Like poison ivy, the sap of this plant contains urushiol which is the compound responsible for the common allergic reaction when it comes in contact with your skin. Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that develops into reddish inflammation or uncolored bumps, and then blistering. This reaction can last anywhere from five to twelve days though, in less likely cases, some may not experience a reaction at all or may experience a rash for a month or more. Reactions will certainly vary from person to person.


Identification

Like poison ivy, poison oak is often found with groups of three leaves. These leaves will most likely be lobed but could also be scalloped, or saw-toothed. Also like poison ivy, the leaves can change color in the fall and, in spring, you might even catch it with white flowers.


Treatment

As you would with poison ivy, if you can act quickly, the first step you can take is to wash the affected area with soapy water. This can help remove the oil from your skin either eliminating or minimizing the impact. If you cannot wash the affected area and a serious reaction occurs, your only treatment option is of the symptoms. Calamine lotion, dedicated commercial poison oak itch creams, or baths to relieve discomfort. Over-the-counter products to ease itching—or simply oatmeal baths and baking soda—are now recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of poison oak.

 

Poison Sumac

What is it?

Poison Sumac can be found as a shrub or small tree. Like poison ivy and poison oak, the sap of this plant contains urushiol which is the compound responsible for the common allergic reaction when it comes in contact with your skin. Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that develops into reddish inflammation or uncolored bumps, and then blistering. This reaction can last anywhere from five to twelve days though, in less likely cases, some may not experience a reaction at all or may experience a rash for a month or more. Reactions will certainly vary from person to person.


Identification

Poison sumac is often found with groups of leaves numbering between 7 to 13 per group. These oval shaped leaves will most likely be pointed at the tip, wedge shaped at the base, and may even have a wavy edge. The leaves can contain a red tint near the top of the plant and, in spring, you might even catch it with slightly green flowers and creamy white fruit which birds will eat.


Treatment

As you would with poison ivy or poison oak, if you can act quickly, the first step you can take is to wash the affected area with soapy water. This can help remove the oil from your skin either eliminating or minimizing the impact. If you cannot wash the affected area and a serious reaction occurs, your only treatment option is of the symptoms. Calamine lotion, dedicated commercial poison sumac itch creams, or baths to relieve discomfort. Over-the-counter products to ease itching—or simply oatmeal baths and baking soda—are now recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of poison sumac.

 

Stinging Nettle

What is it?

Stinging Nettle can be found as a rather tall plant. Unlike poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, this plant contains many hollow, stringing hairs on the leaves and stems which act like needles releasing histamine and other chemicals into the skin producing a stinging or burning sensation. This reaction can last up to 24 hours depending on how severe of an encounter occurred. Reactions will certainly vary from person to person.


Identification

Stinging nettle is often found with leaves stemming from the main trunk of the plant. These leaves tend to be long and saw-toothed. In spring, you may catch it with slightly green or brown flowers.


Treatment

Because stinging nettle will inject its toxins into the body, you can't wash the affected area to the same effect as you could poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. However, like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, you can use anti-itch creams containing antihistamines or hydrocortisone to provide relief.


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