Saturday, March 20, 2010

Poison Ivy- what is it and how do I know if I have it?

Summer is coming and brings its own share of medical issues. One common issue is poison ivy.

What is poison ivy?
Poison ivy is actually a plant that can cause a rash when it comes into contact with skin. The rash is called contact dermatitis. Poison ivy, oak and sumac are the most notorious culprits of allergic contact dermatitis.

These plants contain a compound called urushiol which is a colorless oil that is found on the leaves of the plant. Urushiol turns brown when exposed to the air and causes brown spots on the leaves of the plant.

A person can be exposed to urushiol by direct contact with the plant, indirect contact with something that was exposed to the plant or airborn contact if the plant is burned.

What do these plants look like?
This is poison ivy

This is poison oak

This is poison sumac

Signs and symptoms
50% of people who come into contact with these plants will develop symptoms. Symptoms include redness of the skin, swelling and intense itching. Eventually fluid filled blisters will develop which are usually in a linear pattern. Symptoms may appear 4 hours to 4 days after the exposure to the plant. The area of the body affected depends on what the person was doing when exposed to the plant.

This is what the rash may look like:

Tomorrow- what to do about it!

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