As a follow up to my earlier post about how to identify poisonous plants on the trails, I’ve teamed up with http://www.fix.com to bring you first aid solutions. I did not write this piece but only edited it to add running and cycling specific prevention options. For the full article please click link. http://bitly.com/1IH1VBf. Coffee lovers out there, keep reading, it’s not just for drinking!
Home Remedies for Poisonous Plant Exposure
Even if you hone your poisonous plant prevention skills, your possibility of being exposed to one of these plants while running, cycling, hiking or gardening is still fairly high. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be exposed to the sticky sap through contact with camping equipment or even a pet’s fur. In addition, airborne contact is also possible because all three plants release particles of urushiol into the air, which can penetrate the skin, eyes, nose, throat, or respiratory system.1
If you know you will be in an area known to have poison ivy, oak, or sumac, it’s best to:
- Wear long tights or CEP Compression socks, long sleeves, and lights gloves (if possible). The less skin exposed, the less probability of contact with the oil.
- Use a barrier cream, such as IvyBlock, to help protect exposed skin.
- Thoroughly wash your gear after exposure.
If you do come in contact with one of the plants, isolate the infected area. The primary symptom is a red rash that, for most people, is typically not severe or life threatening. In most cases, the rash can last anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks, depending on the treatment used. Scratching the itchy rash doesn’t necessarily cause it to spread, but it can prolong the healing process. Therefore, it’s recommended that you treat the rash as soon as symptoms appear.2
Poison Plant First Aid
As soon as you notice signs of contact with a poisonous plant, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or, better yet, a specialized poison-plant skin wash. Alternatively, you can use most degreasing soaps or detergents to clean the infected area. Rinse frequently with plenty of water so the solution you use does not dry out on the area, which can spread the urushiol to other parts of the body (such as the hand you are using to treat the infected area).
After cleaning the area, apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering. An antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can help relieve the itch.
Of course, coming into contact with a poisonous plant is quite common when you participate in outdoor activities, including hiking or gardening. However, for those times you’re caught away from the medicine cabinet, a few home remedies can ease itchy discomfort from these poisonous plants.3
- Body Powder
Clean the infected area with water, pat dry, and apply a thin layer of rubbing alcohol. Then, sprinkle a bit of a medicated body powder over the area to create a white paste. Leave it on the skin and wrap cotton gauze around the infected area to isolate the rash.
- Banana Peels
Banana peels contain a number of healing antifungal, antibiotic, and enzymatic properties that can be useful for rash relief. If you don’t have access to alcohol or body power, place a banana peel on the infected area as a temporary solution. The medicinal properties of the peel may not cure the rash, but it can offer some itch relief.
- Potato/Oatmeal Pastes
Some foods, including potatoes and oatmeal, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat a number of inflammatory conditions, including sunburn. After coming in contact with poisonous plants, both foods can help treat an irritating reaction.
First, wash the potato and peel it. Make a thick paste by grinding the potato in a blender. You may need to add a little bit of water, but avoid making the paste too runny. Then, add the paste to the rash and cover it with a clean cloth or large bandage. Leave the paste on for 30 minutes to one hour and wash off. Repeat if necessary.
To make an oatmeal paste, mix one cup of oatmeal with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Add more water as necessary to make the paste thick enough to slather on the skin. Apply the paste to the rash twice a day, leaving it on for about 30 minutes.
If the rash is fairly large, consider a warm bath in colloidal oatmeal. Because colloidal oatmeal is a finely ground powder, it does not sink to the bottom of the bathtub, providing more relief for a larger rash.
If you’re out of the aforementioned products, high-proof alcoholic beverages can act as a substitute for rubbing alcohol. You can sterilize a rash by applying the alcohol directly to the affected area. If you realize you have come in contact with a poisonous plant and apply the vodka quickly, you may be able to wash away the irritant from the skin and avoid the subsequent itchiness.
Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which acts an anti-inflammatory and may help soothe the irritation caused by poisonous plants. To make a coffee paste, mix cold black coffee with a few teaspoons of baking soda. Blend until the mixture forms a thick paste. Cover the entire affected area with the paste, and then allow it dry on the skin. Repeat two or three times a day.
Poisonous Plant First-Aid Kit
While most first-aid kits contain the basics to clean a simple wound, people who are especially sensitive to poisonous plants may want to pack their kits with some extra products.
In addition to rubbing alcohol and cotton gauze, consider a few packets of anti-itch ointment or hydrocortisone anti-itch cream. You can also find products specifically made for poison oak or ivy relief. Carry calamine lotion and an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, in first-aid kits in case of an allergic reaction.
Although the reaction caused by coming in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac is rarely severe enough to go to the hospital, you should keep a few exceptions in mind. If the rash spreads to the eyes, face, or genitals, seek professional medical attention immediately. Call 911 or go to the hospital if the rash is accompanied by any of these symptoms:
- Severe swelling
- Labored breathing
- Temperature over 100° Fahrenheit
- Blisters that ooze pus
- Extreme tenderness
If the rash does not improve within a few weeks, visit a medical professional to seek further treatment.
Coming into contact with poisonous plants can put a serious damper on a camping or hiking trip. It can also be extremely dangerous. Know what to look for and stock your first-aid kit with products specifically made for poison oak, sumac, and ivy relief. Remember that the first line of defence is prevention.