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June 20, 2018

Don't Get Fooled by Poison Ivy

If you think you know what poison ivy looks like, think again. Poison ivy can take the form of a vine, shrub or ground cover. It has leaves that are shiny and leaves that are dull. Its edges can be smoothed or notched.

So how can it be recognized and avoided? The old phrase “leaves of three,” let it be” is a good way to do it, says Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical BioMedics, Inc., makers of Topricin. And if the berries are white, we should “take flight.” That’s true whether you’re hiking in the woods or spending some time in your yard.

Poison ivy tops the list of plants to avoid, Paradise says, because it contains urushiol, an oily resin that binds to the skin on contact and may result in itching, burning skin eruptions. This rash-causing poison ivy sap is a clear liquid found in the plant’s leaves and the roots.

Urushiol oil is extremely potent, and only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash, Paradise says. Even if you’ve never broken out you cannot assume you are immune; in fact, the more often you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out. About 90% of the population develops an allergy to it.

What’s more, urushiol oil remains active for several years, so even handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects—gardening tools or an article of clothing—can cause the rash when it comes in contact with human skin.

(It’s also possible to get poison ivy from your pet. The primary danger to the pets themselves is ingesting the plant; if that happens, go to a vet immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line at 888-426-4435. Luckily, pets can’t “get” poison ivy, according to the company Pet Veterinary Insurance, because their coats are usually too long for the oil to reach their skin.To be on the safe side, Paradise says, bathe your dog or cat after exposure. Use thick rubber gloves, not latex.)

To prevent poison ivy, Paradise recommends that when going on a hike or walking through a wooded area, you minimize the possibility of exposure by wearing long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, booths and gloves. The same is true if you’re cutting down trees or mowing or removing brush. If you stay at a campsite, give it a once-over so you’re aware of any hazards. Look around any campsite.

Prior to any outdoor activity, it can also help to apply a cream or lotion that creates a barrier on the skin.

If you get poison ivy, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that you:

Rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water – ideally, immediately after touching.

Wash your clothing, even down to your bootlaces, Paradise says, and use bleach if possible. The oil can stick to clothing, and if that touches your skin, can cause another rash.

Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, Paradise and the AAD say, the oil can stick to gardening tools, golf clubs and leashes. Wash with warm, soapy water.

Do not scratch, the AAD says. Scratching can cause an infection.

Leave blisters alone. If they open, don’t remove the overlying skin, because that skin can protect the wound beneath.

Take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation that you can buy at a drugstore. You can also add a cup of baking soda to a bath. Short, cool showers can help as well.

Consider applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. But talk to your doctor before applying an antihistamine cream, because that can actually worsen the rash.

Poison ivy can’t always be handled with self-care, though. Paradise says that symptoms requiring immediate medical attention include trouble breathing or swallowing; many rashes/blisters or a rash that covers most of the body; a rash on the genitals; swelling, especially of the eyelid.

For more information, visit topricin.com and the American Academy of Dermatology, aad.org.

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Don't Get Fooled by Poison Ivy

Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

poison ivy allergies bee stings

GENESEE COUNTY, MI – The warm weather and sunshine finally
seem to be showing up more frequently these days.

Being outdoors and taking advantage of the springtime
weather is great, but this time of the year also brings worries of sunburn, bee stings, poison ivy and allergies.

Health officials in Genesee County have some advice on the springtime
topics and offer some tips about staying comfortable outside:

Sunburns

No, it’s not summer yet. But once the snow melts and the sun
starts to shine, it’s time to think about being protected from the sun, said Dr.
Robert Soderstrom, a Flint Township dermatologist.

People haven’t had to worry about sun exposure all winter,
so oftentimes they forget to worry about it when the weather first starts to
get nice, he said.

“As people go into the spring and summer, we caution people
about sun exposure. People forget,” Soderstrom said. “People have gone months
without any exposure. It doesn’t take much sun for people to burn sometimes.”

From the first of May to the end of September, people should
think about sun protection, he said. Wearing hats, covering up the skin with
clothing and using a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF are ways to protect again
the sun.

As more people begin running, biking and exercising outside,
it’s best to get out before 10 a.m. or after 2 or 3 p.m., when the sun is not at its peak in the sky, Soderstrom said.

“No sunburn is safe,” he said. “A lot of it is just common
sense. We ask people to keep it in mind.”

Bee stings

This is the time that bees start waking up, but a single
sting with minor swelling isn’t anything to worry about, local physicians said.

If someone, however, starts to have trouble breathing, they
become dizzy, get hives or their tongue starts swelling up, then emergency care
is needed right away, said Dr. Gerald Natzke, a Flint Township environmental
medicine specialist.

If the sting causes pain, itching or some swelling, it is
suggested to use Calamine lotion or take Benadryl.

Baking soda mixed with water is an old trick to help with
the itch from a bee sting. One trick some may not know is you can make a
similar paste with meat tenderizer and water, Natzke said.

“Bee venom is a protein. It can be denatured by using the
meat tenderizers,” he said.

Poison Ivy

poison ivy
Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

Living in Michigan,
knowing what poison ivy looks like is important, Soderstrom said.

“Poison ivy is an epidemic in Michigan. It is everywhere. It
starts out this type of year as a low-growing weed and then begins vining up in
the summertime,” he said.

Eastern poison ivy is typically a hairy, ropelike vine with
three shiny green (or red in the fall) leaves budding from one small stem,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Western
poison ivy is typically a low shrub with three leaves that does not form a
climbing vine. It may have yellow or green flowers and white to green-yellow or
amber berries.

Soderstrom said it’s known for its three leaves.

Poison ivy, however, is not just found in the woods, he
said. People can come in contact with it while gardening, in a park, off in the
weeds or climbing up a tree or house, he said.

While some people will be unaffected when coming into
contact with poison ivy, others will be greatly affected after only a short
exposure to it, Soderstrom said.

A poison ivy reaction often shows as a rash or blisters in a
straight line and it takes about 24 to 48 hours to really break out. The rash
will get worse within the first few days before it gets better, and it can take
about two or three weeks to completely clear up, he said.

Over-the-counter medication, like Calamine lotion, will help
with the itching, but if it blisters, people need prescription medicine,
Soderstrom said.

Poison ivy contact really starts picking up in the
middle of May and grows rather dramatically in the summer. If people know they
are going to be in weeded areas or the woods, they should wear long sleeves
and pants, he said.

Once someone realizes they’ve been in contact with poison
ivy, they should shower and soap up within 30 minutes, Soderstrom said. Poison
ivy cannot be spread from one person to another, but it can be spread off the clothing
the person was wearing if they are not washed right after contact.

Allergies

Believe it or not, allergy season has already began, said
Natzke.

Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

Trees are releasing pollen and have been for
a while, he said. Grass allergies won’t be far away, along with mold allergies.

“We have a lot of trees in this area, so it’s real common to
have tree-sensitive individuals,” Natzke said. “It’s going to come out full
force here in the next few weeks.”

Shortness of breath, coughing, watery and itchy eyes and
runny nose are all signs of allergies. If allergies to pollen or grass are not
an issue, spring is a great time to open the windows and air out the house to
let chemicals out and fresh air in, Natzke said.

If allergies are a problem, opening the windows might make
it worse, so Natzke suggested getting an air purifier.

With spring just beginning, it might be a good time to talk
with a physician about the best ways to control allergies, he said.

Medications are good for people who have mild to moderate
allergies for a short period of time, Natzke said. There is nasal spray
available to get some of the pollen and mold out of the nose.

“Allergies are getting worse and getting more prevalent,”
Natzke said, noting that decreased immune systems have a lot to do with it. “Put
yourself in a healthier place, by reducing stressers and improving their sleep
habits, exercise and reducing exposure to toxins.”

Exposure to chemicals from things such as potent household
cleaners, pesticides and smoke and wood burning stoves increase the potential
for the development allergies. As the warmer
weather encourages spring cleaning and painting, Natzke advised people to be
cautious of the products they use.

Rabies

Although it’s not common in the area, springtime is a good
time to be aware of the disease.

Rabies is a viral disease that is usually transmitted from animal
to animal, but can also infect humans as a result of an animal bite, according
to the Genesee County Health Department’s website.

People are out
and about and playing, they could come certainly in contact with certain type
of animals and animals that may appear wild or have abnormal behavior and can
be bitten,” said Dr. Gary Johnson, Genesee County Health Department medical
director. “Just be on the lookout for any type of animal that looks (and acts)
strangely.”

Animals most affected by rabies are wild animals such as
skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats. Domestic animals – usually unvaccinated cats
and dogs – can also spread the virus, according to the website.

Johnson said people should not try to capture a wild animal
they think is affected with rabies. If bitten by a wild animal, the individual
should call their primary health care provider or visit an emergency room.

For more information about rabies and what to do if bitten,
visit the Genesee County Health Department’s website.

Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies
Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies
Get ready for spring with tips and advice on sunburns, bee stings, poison ivy, allergies

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