Hiking deep in the woods is beneficial to your soul, and a great way to relieve the stresses of city life. If you have been considering Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals or other locations for taking a vacation in the woods, but are nervous about poisonous plants because you are used to life in a concrete jungle, don't let a little fear of poisonous plants keep you from enjoying the great outdoors.

In this guide, you will learn how to identify the 3 most common poisonous plants (ivy, oak and sumac), the symptoms from coming in contact with them, and self-treatment methods to ease your discomfort if you do.

Identifying Poisonous Plants

The best thing is avoidance. The only way to do that is to know how to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac. Print out this photo and laminate it so you can carry it in your pocket as you explore the great outdoors.  

Avoidance is Key

Poison ivy, oak and sumac have a chemical on the stems, leaves and roots called urushiol. It causes a skin rash within 12 to 72 hour of contact. Urushiol is a sticky substance that is difficult to get rid of once it's on your skin, shoes and clothing. Avoid skin contact with these precautions:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants
  • Don't step on the plants
  • Use gardening gloves to handle plants and anything that has touched the plants
  • Wash clothing, gloves and footwear as soon as possible

CAUTION: Burning poisonous plants can cause the urushiol to become airborne, which can lead to even greater skin exposure if you are in the vicinity.

Symptoms of Skin Contact

  • Red, itchy skin
  • Small blisters that may break open

Call 911 if you find it difficult to breathe or swallow, or you experience facial swelling. These are symptoms of anaphylaxis, which is a serious and life-threatening acute allergic reaction.

When to See a Doctor

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Unable to sleep
  • Rash covers a large part of your body
  • Rash is near your eyes
  • Rash lasts longer than one week

Self-Treatment for the Rash

  • Take an oatmeal bath
  • Apply a layer of calamine lotion
  • Use a cool compress for about 30 minutes
  • Avoid scratching because it can spread the rash

CAUTION: Do not use topical antihistamines, antibiotic ointments, or anesthetics as these may irritate your skin further.

Most cabin rentals have first-aid kits, but it's a good idea to pack one to take with you, just in case. Be prepared with the knowledge of how to avoid poisonous plants, when to seek medical care and how to self-treat rashes if you do come in contact with them, and you may just find that you prefer the greater outdoors to the concrete jungle. 

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