Oklahoma Poison Control gives tips about poison ivy

Okla. — The Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information (OCPDI) has recently released tips about spotting poison ivy and what to do if someone has been exposed to it.

According to Scott Schaeffer, managing director of OCPDI, “Poison ivy may look different depending on the time of year. The plant has three leaflets that are all on the same stem, but in early spring it may look like a small shrub and then later begin to make a vine. During summer months, the leaves are green, but they turn red in the fall and have white berries.”

The symptoms of poison ivy, itching, red rash and then blisters, can appear anytime from hours to days after exposure.

The cause of these symptoms is the plant’s oil, urushiol.

Urushiol is found in the sap of the plants and can stick to pets, gardening tools, toys and anything else it touches. Urushiol can also remain on a surface of years.

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Urushiol attaches to the skin within minutes, so immediate action to exposure is best.

Washing may not stop the rash if more than 15 minutes have passed, but it can help stop further spreading.

Contact with or breathing the smoke from burning poison ivy can cause a reaction. Do not burn poison ivy plants.

The OCPDI recommends these tips if you’ve been exposed to poison ivy:

• Wash exposed area with cool water and a grease-cutting dishwashing soap. Regular bar soap does not remove the oil and can spread the oil to other parts of the body.

• Wash clothes with regular laundry soap. With alcohol and water, wipe off shoes, tools and anything else that may have been in contact with the oil. Be sure to wear gloves or cover your hands while performing this task and then discard the hand coverings.

• Blisters and itching will often occur within 48 hours of an exposure. For those rare people who react after their very first exposure, the rash usually appears after seven to 10 days. Because the blisters do not contain the oil, they are not contagious.

• Antihistamine creams do not help control itching and can make the rash worse.

They also recommend seeing a doctor if:

• You have a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

• The rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genital area or covers more than one-fourth of your skin area.

• The rash is not improving within a few weeks.

• The rash is widespread and severe.

• You have difficulty breathing.

For more information, log on to www.oklahomapoison.org or call (800) 222-1222.

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