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Summer Safety – Poisonous Plants

Jun 09, 2023

Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. Dr. Mary-Ann Phillips, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates, talks about what you need to know about summer safety.

1). As children spends time outdoors this summer, what should we be mindful of with regard to poisonous plants?

Summer is filled with all kinds of outdoor activities for children. We sometimes forget how much your child is at risk for exposure to poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. When these plants come in contact with skin, the sap oil (urushiol) of these plants can cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

  • Red rash within a few days of contact
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Possible bumps, patches, streaking or weeping blisters NOTE: Blister fluids are not contagious

2). How should you treat exposure to one of these poisonous plants?


If you are exposed, you should:

  • Immediately rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, poison plant wash, or degreasing soap (such as dishwashing soap) or detergent, and lots of water. Remember the sap is oily, so that is why we suggest a decreasing soap. Rinse frequently so that wash solutions do not dry on the skin and further spread the sap.
  • Scrub under nails with a brush.
  • Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering. Oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
  • An antihistamine may help relieve itching. NOTE: Drowsiness may occur.
  • In severe cases seek professional medical attention.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room if you have a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing, or have had a severe reaction in the past.

3). Is there anything that you can do to protect your child from exposure to poisonous plants this summer?


Sure, you can:

  • When possible, especially if you are going to be near or around plants, wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves.
  • Wash exposed clothing separately in hot water with detergent.
  • Barrier skin creams, such as lotion containing bentoquatum, may offer some protection.
  • Note that sap oil from these poisonous plants can remain active on the surface of objects for up to 5 years.
  • Do not burn plants or brush piles that may contain poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Inhaling smoke from burning plants can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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