The Henry and Stark County Health Departments remind area residents that as many of us take advantage of the summer months to increase outdoor activities; exposure to local flora may result in an increased risk of encountering one of nature's less desirables, poison ivy.
The most common consequence of poison ivy exposure is the development of poison ivy rash. Poison ivy rash is easily distinguished. The skin is red and blisters are formed in a linear pattern. Swelling may occur, and there may be acute itching.
Allergy to the plant develops after one or repeated contacts with the plant. The first attack may not begin for 7-10 days after the first contact. The rash then appears and continues to spread for a week or more. Subsequent attacks develop within 2-3 days and run a faster course.
Direct contact with the plant, or contact with something which has contacted the plant is usually necessary to produce an attack. In smoke the allergen travels but a few feet, if at all. Following contact or suspected contact, thorough bathing with plenty of soap may remove the plant juices and prevent an attack, but only if the bathing is done within hours or so after exposure.
The blister fluid does not contain any of the allergen, nor does it promote any spread of the rash. Cool, wet dressings along with anti-itching medication control the symptoms fairly well and give the quickest recovery. Skin undergoing an allergic reaction and skin which is inflamed and oozing is easily sensitized to other contact allergens.
As one grows older, sensitivity usually decreases very markedly. Also, after several attacks, the person himself may learn to recognize and avoid the plant. As sensitivity to poison ivy and its close relatives is the most common form of contact dermatitis, learning to recognize these plants may prevent an uncomfortable and agonizing, although preventable, condition.
So keep tips in mind and enjoy all the great fun this time of year has to offer. For more information on outdoor safety visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com or Find us on Facebook at Henry and Stark County Health Department or Follow Us on Twitter.