Healthcare providers warn about the dangers of poisonous plants

Kamri Sylve reports on 1011 This Morning.
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 7:06 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - This summer, most of us will be heading outdoors for a good time. Healthcare providers say it's important to know what to do if your family comes in contact with poisonous plants.

By now, we know that social distancing at home doesn’t necessarily mean staying inside. If you’re out hiking, gardening or simply enjoying fresh air, it’s vital to know about certain plants that can be harmful.

Whether it's camping with the family or just going out by the water, it's likely you'll walk under trees. In Nebraska, this is where it's possible to find poisonous plants.

Plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac release a dangerous oil when the plants are bruised or damaged. When this oil gets on your skin, it can cause a severe allergic reaction, but there are steps you can take if this happens. First thing is to remove your clothes. Then, gently rinse the area and look out for blisters, bumps, swelling or a rash. Grab some rubbing alcohol, a plant-based soap or dishwashing liquid to clean the infected area, but be sure not to scrub the skin, as that can make the rash even more irritated.

"Anytime we have a break in the skin, we could have an infection as well, too. A lot of times, that will get red, and it'll start draining and become irritated. Sometimes, you'll have a low-grade fever as well, too," says CVS MinuteClinic nurse practitioner, Jessica Parks.

All of these symptoms can show up between four hours to four days and can last for several weeks. Using cold, wet compresses, over-the-counter calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can help.

If you can, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when you're out in areas filled with unfamiliar plants. Experts say it's helpful knowing what these poisonous plants look like beforehand.

"'Leaves of three, let them be.' That's an old saying. Looking for those groupings of three is the best way to avoid getting this rash in the first place," says Parks.

If the rash spreads or symptoms don’t go away, it’s best to seek professional help. Right now, CVS MinuteClinics are seeing patients suffering from exposure to poisonous plants. They’re also offering telehealth appointments for other skin concerns as well.

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