These plants that burn the skin.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Hikers and campers often come into contact with these plants, which are found in large quantities throughout Quebec, but did you know that they can also be found in your yard?

In fact, some more common plants such as poison ivy, hogweed and even wild parsnip can be found very close to your home.

How do you recognize these poisonous plants?

Poison ivy

This plant usually grows along roadsides and trails. The leaves consist of three pointed leaflets, which may have a plain or slightly serrated edge. The leaf is reddish in the spring and a smooth dull green in the summer, turning various shades of yellow, orange, red or bronze in the fall. Poison ivy can also be identified by its wood-like stems.

Poison Ivy

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

The plant can grow from 2 to 5 meters in height and its leaves can reach 1.5 meters in width and 3 meters in length. It is adorned with white flowers that form an umbrella at the end of a very sturdy stem covered with coarse white hairs with numerous raspberry red to purple spots.

Wild parsnip

The wild parsnip is a poisonous plant that is similar to the hogweed, ranging from 0.5 m to 1.5 m in height. The leaves grow in pairs, with very toothed leaflets that grow opposite each other on the stem, and a diamond-shaped leaflet at the tip. The yellowish-green flowers form umbrella-shaped clusters that are 4 to 8 inches wide, topping a smooth green, 1-inch-thick, slightly hairy stem.

Wild parsnip

Best ways to treat toxic plant burn

In most cases, symptoms associated with poison ivy, hogweed or wild parsnip burns begin within hours of contact with the plant's sap. It may start as a small area of itching, but it can be a rash over a large area of your body.

You don't have to just pout and scratch yourself into a frenzy.

The next time you find yourself with red, irritated skin covered in bumps or blisters, try some of these methods to ease your suffering.

  1. Try to avoid scratching your skin as much as possible. This will only cause the rash to spread and the blisters to open up. Plan to attack your rash quickly with a more reliable treatment method. 

  2. Wash affected areas as soon as possible after exposure. Use cold or cool soapy water and then pat dry. Do not rub with a towel to avoid further irritating the skin. Apply rubbing alcohol to the affected areas to help dry the rash.

  3. There are many effective over-the-counter products to soothe the skin and dry out the offending oils. Apply them as soon as possible after exposure. 

  4. Dabbing the blisters with witch hazel helps them dry more quickly. Again, dabbing is effective. Rubbing increases irritation and can spread the rash.

  5. As soon as you start to itch, run warm water over the affected areas. This may briefly aggravate the itching, but then some relief will set in as your nerves are overloaded and calm down.

  6. Other traditional remedies include making a paste of baking soda and water and applying the mixture to the rash. Let it dry. This will leave a white, pasty layer on your skin, but it seems to offer brief relief.

  7. Calamine lotion and aloe vera have long been favorite remedies for relieving the crazy itching that comes with poison ivy. These products should be part of every household's medicine cabinet. Many people use oral medications containing antihistamines to control the spread and itching of poison ivy.

  8. Severe poison ivy outbreaks should not be taken lightly. If the rash covers a significant portion of your body or is on your face or genitals, you should seek medical attention immediately. Prescribing options such as steroids may be your best chance for a quick recovery. Your doctor may also prescribe a cream that is more effective in treating the itching than the one you can buy at the drugstore. 

Remember that these poisonous plants are hardy and present in many places.

If you think you are in an area where these plants may be present, try to cover exposed skin as much as possible. Long pants, long sleeves and gloves can block much of the plant's harmful oils.

To avoid possible future exposure, wash all of your clothes after you get home from the outdoors. The sap from the plants you brushed against with your pant leg may come back to haunt you later if you handle your contaminated clothing.

When to consult

You should seek medical attention if :

  • a child has come into contact with the sap

  • the sap has touched a person's eyes

  • the person has a fever;

  • the lesions are significant:

    • the skin becomes red and swollen over more than one-third of the body part with lesions;

    • large blisters or blisters have appeared (at least 2.5 cm or larger than a quarter);

    • there are lesions on more than one part of the body;

    • the lesions contain pus (yellow, opaque fluid)

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