Local News

Know What To Do If Exposed To Poison Ivy Or Poison Oak

Posted July 1, 2005

— Chances are you will spend some time outdoors for the Fourth of July weekend. Whatever you do, watch your step. You do not want to bump into poison oak or ivy. There are ways to avoid that itchy, irritating rash, and what to do if you get it.

Safety is key at Camp Durant in Moore County, in the water or on the trails. Trouble lurks underfoot.

Poison ivy has three pointy-edged leaflets. It grows along the ground, but it can also climb tree trunks. Poison oak also has three leaflets, but it grows up in trees. Poison sumac is typically found in peat bogs or swamps. Jeb Rector knows he is allergic to the oil the plants secrete.

"You can't itch or nothing. You want to, but you can't because it will just spread," he said.

The oil penetrates the skin within minutes. If you know you have been exposed, act quickly.

"The best way to take care of that is good old-fashioned soap and water -- warm soap and water," said Dan Whitt, medic at Camp Durant.

Symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours as a blistery red rash. Whitt warns scouts they or their pets can become carriers of the toxic resin.

"It will attach itself not only to the human skin, but also to clothing and even equipment itself can become contaminated," he said.

Unless the items are thoroughly washed, they can recontaminate you or someone else.

Calamine lotion can help dry out the rash. Over-the-counter steroid products aren't strong enough. For most cases, see a doctor. They can provide steroid treatments in a cream, pill or shot.

Your sensitivity to poison ivy, oak or sumac can change over time. You may be sensitive as a child but not as an adult or vice-versa.

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