We’re not out of the woods yet!
In my last blog post, I covered how to protect yourself from the summer sun while still enjoying the outdoors. Now let’s discuss some more summer dangers: poison ivy and mosquito bites.
If you’re going to be outside this summer, you may come in contact with one, or both, of these inconveniences. Keep reading to find out what to watch out for, and what to take with you to be prepared.
How to Identify The Trouble Plants
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all grow here in North Carolina. They grow in the forest where you may be hiking, but you may also come across them in your yard, or while on an evening walk in your neighborhood.
These plants are hazardous to the touch because they have an oil called urushiol that can cause a rash and even form blisters. A urushiol reaction can present in a variety of ways, but the most common are an itchy red rash with bumps, blisters that may or may not weep, and inflammation. According to the Center for Disease Control, 80% of adults develop a rash as a result of contact with urushiol.
Poison Ivy can exist as a hairy, climbing vine (this is the most common type in North Carolina), but can also be found as a small bush. This plant can be identified by it’s three leaves branching from a single stem. Most of the year, it has shiny greens leaves, but in the fall they may turn reddish. It also may produce yellow or green flowers, as well as greenish-yellow berries.
Poison Oak is similar to poison ivy. It is mainly present in shrub form, and will have the same three-leaf formation, and can also flower and produce berries.
Poison Sumac is a woody shrub that has seven to thirteen leaves on a stem and may also contain berries similar to poison ivy and poison oak.
How to Treat Reactions
If you find that you have come in contact with an urushiol containing plant, here are some steps to take:
Wash the skin thoroughly. Once you recognize that you have touched one of these plants, you want to remove the oil from your skin as quickly as possible. Because urushiol is an oil, use an oil removing soap such as degreasing dish detergent. Zanfel and Tecnu are two over-the-counter items available at Sona specifically formulated to help remove the urushiol oil as well. These washes work best within 8 hours of contact, but can also provide relief after a rash has developed.
Also remember that pets, bed linens, and clothing can all spread urushiol oil and should be properly washed as well.
Treat the rash. Over-the-counter items help relieve itching and irritation. Hydrocortisone Cream 1% is a steroid cream that aids in reducing itching and inflammation. Calamine lotion helps soothe the skin and dries out oozing areas. These items should be avoided if you have open blisters. Oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (or Benadryl), also help relieve itching, but may cause drowsiness.
Seek medical attention as needed. If a rash develops on sensitive skin such as the face or genitals, you should seek medical attention from your family doctor, or come see one of our wonderful clinicians at Sona Clinic! For severe rashes, a trip to the doctor is also necessary and will aid in the timely resolution of your symptoms.
Another Pesky Summer Inconvenience: Mosquito Bites
Mosquito bites can cause numerous issues for people enjoying the outdoors. In addition to causing a constant itch, mosquitos also spread diseases such as Zika, West Nile Virus, and Malaria.
Mosquito Bite Protection
The CDC recommends using insect repellent on exposed skin that contains deet (20-50%), picaridin, oil of eucalyptus (OLE), IR3535, or 2-undecanone. These repellents are considered safe for use in pregnant women and children over the age of two months, with the exception of OLE, which is recommended for children over three years old.
Insect repellent should be applied sparingly and washed off when you return indoors. Clothing can also serve as a barrier to insects; long sleeves, hats, and pants are also good barriers from mosquitos.
Mosquito Bite Treatment
Similar to poison ivy, simple mosquito bites can be treated with a topical steroid such as hydrocortisone 1% cream or a topical antihistamine such as diphenhydramine 2% cream.
Don’t let poison ivy or mosquitos turn your outdoor activities into an itchy memory. Prepare to protect yourself from these dangers before heading outside, but remember to pack along some treatment options should you come in contact with either one!
If you have any questions about which products you should use to protect yourself or your family, please stop by Sona to speak with a pharmacist today.