Preventing Skin Irritations Caused by Plants By: Cari Elofson Environmental Health and Safety Department 657.278.7233 (S-A-F-E)
Common Plant Irritations Irritating plants can cause: Cuts Puncture wounds Itchy, irritated skin Painful blisters Rashes Boils
Skin Irritations – Sharp-edged or pointed leaves Agave or Yucca have needle-sharp leaves Can cut or cause skin abrasion Pampas grass looks soft, but actually have razor-sharp edges Can easily slice/cut skin
Skin Irritations - Thorns
Can cause cuts, abrasions and punctures
Rose Bushes Bougainvillea Crown of Thorns Wild Blackberries/ Raspberries Always remove thorns to prevent infection.
Skin Irritations – Spines and Glochids Spines – large barbed spines barrel cactus Glochids - very fine, hair-like, barbed thorns prickly pear can become embedded at the slightest touch hard to see to remove
First Aid for Spines, Glochids & Thorns Use Tweezers. Some spines are barbed, causing intense pain when removed. Use “Comb Method” of removal for spines. Insert teeth of comb between the barb and skin. Quickly flip comb (and cactus) away from body. Use “Duct Tape Method” Adhere a piece of duct tape over the spines and pull it off.
Skin Irritation – Stem and Leaf Hairs Stem and leaf hairs fine hairs found on the stems and leaves of plants harmless-looking but cause skin irritation Local plants include: Borage Forget-me-nots Sunflowers
Skin Irritation – Barely-There Irritant Fibers Tulips cause skin abrasions very small, almost invisible fibers People who frequently handle tulips bulbs can get a condition called "tulip fingers“. Caused the irritating fibers and a chemical in the bulb.
Skin Irritation – Stinging Stinging plants have nettles. Touching a nettle can cause a toxic reaction. doesn’t last long has no lasting effect First aid Wash with soap & water Apply antihistamine cream Nettle leaf close up
Common Allergenic Plants Cause allergic reactions in some people. Pollen in these plants can cause hay fever or asthma. Include: Orchids Chrysanthemums Dahlias Hyacinths
“The Poison Three” Poison Ivy Poison Oak Poison Sumac Relatives of the cashew, mango, and the sumacs. Over ½ of all the people in the U.S. are sensitive or allergic. Cause severe allergic reactions if a person comes in contact with them. All three contain the same poison called “Urushiol”.
Poison Ivy Found in West except for desert regions of California, Nevada and Arizona. Found in wooded areas. Grows as a shrub, ground cover and tree-climbing vine. Green leaves that typically form bundles of three on one purple stem. Rarely grows above 5000 ft.
Poison Oak Usually not found above 4000 feet elevation. More common in the western U.S. Commonly grows as a shrub from 1 to 6 feet tall Leaves are shaped somewhat like oak leaves. Leaves usually grow in groups of three on a shared stalk.
Poison Sumac Shrub or small tree up to 20ft. Found all over the U.S. Found in wet, wooded areas. Long stem with many leaves of both green and purplish red colors with a red stem. In Fall, colors range from bright yellow to deep purple.
Getting Rid of “The Poison Three” Wear protective gloves and clothing! Uproot it in late fall, when it has a minimum of poison. NEVER burn it! Smoke carries the oil, producing a rash over 100 percent of the body If you inhale the smoke, you can get the rash in your throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs.
“Urushiol” the Poison Connection Urushiol is the poisonous oil that causes allergic skin rash on contact. Urushiol is found in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. all parts of the plant, including roots, stems, and leaves Doesn’t affect animals. After 15 minutes of exposure, it bonds to the skin and can no longer be washed off.
Urushiol Exposure You can get the oil on your skin by: Touching the poison oak, ivy or sumac plant. Touching any clothing, including shoes, that have come in contact with the plant. Touching any gardening tools that may have the oil on it. Touching any outdoor pets that have gotten the oil on their hair. Burning the poison oak plant. The oil from the plant is carried in the smoke.
The Reaction Symptoms include: severe itching reddish colored rash blistering of the skin “Contact Dermatitis” shows within 1 – 12 hours. Severity depends on: individual sensitivity size of dose of Urushiol the person got
The Reaction All parts of the body are vulnerable. where the skin is thick, (i.e. soles of the feet, palms of the hands) = less sensitive where the skin is thinner (i.e. around the eyes, underside of arms) = more sensitive.
Immediately wash irritated area: Use non- oil containing soap. Clean area with rubbing alcohol. After the rash has developed, treatment is based on relieving symptoms. Visit a doctor if you get a fever or have trouble breathing. Treatment
Relieving the Symptoms What You Can Do Use cool compresses. Cold water or whole milk
Use over-the-counter itch creams.
Calamine Lotion Aloe Vera gel Oatmeal baths/soaks Take antihistamines. Benedryl or similar Wear loose, cotton clothing. See a doctor if fever, infection or symptoms persist!
Emergency Treatment Accidental poisoning can occur:
inhaling smoke from poisonous plants
irritation and swelling in the throat
can be deadly!
Accident / Exposure Prevention Communicate hazards. Recognize and avoid hazardous plants. Reassign employees who are extremely sensitive to toxic plants, to less exposed duties. Wash tools, clothes, and other items came in contact with toxic plants. Use commercial products that can help keep the urushiol oil from getting into your skin. “Ivy Block” is the only FDA approved product. Forms a clay-like coating on the skin.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Wear protective clothing. Long pants Long sleeves Boots Gloves Make sure all clothing overlaps to prevent exposure. Use safety glasses or face shield when cutting.
Fatalities There were no OSHA reported fatalities related to any of these plants for the years 1990-2009. Source: OSHA Fatality Data-1990-2009