Poison sumac is a plant that contains toxic oils which cause allergic reaction in humans in the form of rashes and blisters. It is found in many areas of United States. This HealthHearty article will cover some informational aspects of this skin allergy to help you stay safe and cautious.
In many wet areas of southeast and midwest regions of the United States, a highly noxious weed called the poison sumac is found. Poison sumac or Toxicodendron vernix is closely related to poison ivy and poison oak. It grows as a shrub or small tree that is about 30-feet tall, in extremely wet areas. When a person comes in contact with the plant, it results in rashes and blister formation. (The image alongside is representative of the rash caused by urushiol, an oily substance found in plants like poison sumac, ivy, and oak.) If the plant is burned and the smoke is inhaled by a person, it may adversely affect the lungs.
Identification of the Poison Sumac Plant
One can identify the plant by its compound leaves. The leaf stalk is reddish or gray in color and has 7 and 13 leaflets per stem. The leaves are smooth and are about 2 to 4 inches in length. During fall, the leaves turn orange or scarlet in color. The flowers and fruits are produced in spring and summer. The flowers of poison sumac are yellowish-green in color. It bears white or gray berries, and its leaves have red veins.
Why Does It Cause Rashes?
An oily toxicant called urushiol is produced by the plant. This causes severe skin irritation in humans. The oil can come in contact with the skin through direct contact with leaves, stems, fruits, roots, or flowers. Also, clothing, tools, objects, or animals that come in contact with the plant can cause rashes. When the sumac plant is burned, the oil is emitted into air and can cause severe poisoning in those who inhale the smoke. It cannot be transmitted by the oozing blisters. It is only transmitted when a person directly touches urushiol.
Identification of the Rash
In about 85% of individuals, the urushiol can cause an allergic skin reaction. Only a few lucky individuals may not develop any kind of reaction or symptom. The typical poison sumac rash appears after 1 or 2 days of contact. The symptoms include:
- Rashes and blisters on the skin in a line.
- Bursting and oozing of the blisters.
- Formation of crusts after the blisters have dried up.
- Swelling in area of contact.
- Raised or flat red blotches.
- Intense skin itching.
In case of severe rash, symptoms may include fever, stomach cramps, nausea, and swelling throughout the body. In case the urushiol reaches the lungs through inhalation, it may cause nasal irritation and painful breathing problems. It is very important to seek medical help.
The treatment options mostly consist of self-care measures. The first thing to do is to wash off and dry the affected area to remove the oils. You can use an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream at the beginning. Application of calamine lotion would also prove to be of help. Placing cool wet towels on the area as frequently as possible, and soaking the area in an oatmeal bath would also help ease the itch.
In case of severe reaction, seek medical help. If you observe swelling, pain, and warmth around the affected contact area, it means you have developed an infection. You will need medical help and the doctor may prescribe topical/oral antibiotics, and oral corticosteroid (such as prednisone). To avoid an infection, never ever scratch the blisters with your fingernails.
You should learn to identify poison sumac plant. Ensure you wear long sleeves, full pants, boots, and gloves when you know you may be at risk of coming in contact with it. You should wash all the clothes, shoes, tools, pets, and anything that may have come in contact with the plant to avoid transmission. Remove sumac plants by using herbicides available in the market.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.