stinging nettle

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Avoid contact with poisonous plants

June 23, 2014

Anyone working outdoors is at risk of exposure to poisonous plants, including poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

According to NIOSH, when a worker comes in contact with the sap oil of poisonous plants – either through direct or indirect contact, or inhalation of particles when burning plants – an allergic reaction can occur. Symptoms of exposure include rashes, swelling, itching, and bumps and blisters.

If exposed to a poisonous plant, NIOSH recommends these first aid tips:

  • Rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, poison plant wash, or a degreasing soap or detergent as soon as possible.
  • Clean under your nails.
  • Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
  • Take an antihistamine to help relieve itching. However, be aware that drowsiness may occur. Take an oatmeal bath – it may help relieve itching.
  • Call 911 or go to an emergency department if you have a severe allergic reaction (or if the rash is on the face or genitals), such as swelling or difficulty breathing, or have had a severe reaction in the past.

To help prevent exposure:

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, boots and gloves when working outdoors.
  • Wash exposed clothing separately in hot water with detergent.
  • Use skin lotions containing the ingredient bentoquatum.
  • Do not burn plants that may contain poisonous plants. Inhaling smoke from these plants can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.