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Poison ivy is a toxic plant that can cause a severe inflammatory reaction to the skin. Learn more about poison ivy.
Poison ivy is a venenous plant that presents a threat to a large number of people. Fairly widespread in Canada, it usually grows on uncultivated lands, particularly in ditches, roadsides or in nature trails. It can also be found on or around rural or residential properties.
This weed can be difficult to recognize, as it can take many different appearances. As a general rule, it is a bushy plant that has no thorns, measuring between 20 centimeters to 1 meter high, depending on the variety. A stem has three green leaves, but the leaves can also be red or brown and still be toxic. Even when the plant is dead, it can cause an intense reaction to skin.
The sap contained in various parts of the plant is made of a toxic substance called urushiol, which causes a severe skin reaction manifested, among other things, by:
A typical reaction cause by urushiol can occur after:
It may take a few weeks before the cutaneous manifestations disappear completely.
People frequently confuse poison ivy and ragweed because the terms are very similar in French. Other than their names, these plants are similar in that they are both weeds that can cause health issues. Poison ivy affects the skin by causing a severe inflammatory reaction, while ragweed causes allergic manifestations, especially of a respiratory nature in people that are sensitive to it.
Pollen produced by ragweed causes an allergic reaction commonly called “hay fever” in millions of Canadians during the summer. Because ragweed is often found on roadsides and vacant lands, outdoor strolls or car rides can turn into a nightmare for allergic individuals. Contrary to poison ivy, ragweed is safe to touch and can be pulled out with bare hands.
For additional information about ragweed and allergies related to it, read the following text: How to recognize and treat a ragweed allergy.
If you have come into contact with poison ivy or its sap, start by removing your clothing and clean the affected areas with soap and water.
If you have a skin reaction, it is recommended to:
In the case of a severe reaction, it may be advisable to see a doctor, who may prescribe medication, depending on the nature and intensity of your symptoms.
To avoid the unpleasantness of a reaction to poison ivy, it is first recommended to learn to recognize the plant and to avoid all contact with it. You can also take certain precautions:
See a healthcare professional able to make a diagnosis and explain what to do if you think you may have come into contact with poison ivy. Your pharmacist can inform you of the ways to recognize poison ivy and the measures to take to get rid of the plant and treat the skin reaction it causes. Don’t hesitate to speak to a pharmacist.
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