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  • 1. Preventing Skin Irritations Caused by Plants
    By: Cari Elofson
    Environmental Health and Safety Department
    657.278.7233 (S-A-F-E)
  • 2. Common Plant Irritations
    Irritating plants can cause:
    Puncture wounds
    Itchy, irritated skin
    Painful blisters
  • 3. 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
  • 4. Skin Irritations - Thorns
    • Can cause cuts, abrasions and punctures
    Rose Bushes
    Crown of Thorns
    Wild Blackberries/ Raspberries
    Always remove thorns to prevent infection.
  • 5. 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
  • 6.
  • 7. 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.
  • 8. 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:
  • 9. Skin Irritation – Barely-There Irritant Fibers
    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.
  • 10. 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
  • 11. Common Allergenic Plants
    Cause allergic reactions in some people.
    Pollen in these plants can cause hay fever or asthma.
  • 12. “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”.
  • 13. 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.
  • 14. 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.
  • 15. 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.
  • 16. 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.
  • 17. “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.
  • 18. 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.
  • 19. 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
  • 20. 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.
  • 21. 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.
  • 22. 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!
  • 23. Emergency Treatment
    Accidental poisoning can occur:
    • accidental ingestion
    • 24. inhaling smoke from poisonous plants
    • 25. trouble breathing
    • 26. high fever
    • 27. irritation and swelling in the throat
    • 28. 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.
  • 29. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    Wear protective clothing.
    Long pants
    Long sleeves
    Make sure all clothing overlaps to prevent exposure.
    Use safety glasses or face shield when cutting.
  • 30. Fatalities
    There were no OSHA reported fatalities related to any of these plants for the years 1990-2009.
    Source: OSHA Fatality Data-1990-2009
  • 31. True or False? Review
    Wash your shoes separately in hot water after handling toxic plants.
    Burning plants can release harmful toxins into the air.
    After handling plants, always wash your hands and other exposed skin before eating, drinking, smoking, or going to the bathroom.
    Don’t bother removing thorns from skin, they will eventually fall out on their own.
    Wear short-sleeved shirts so you can spot skin reactions easily.
    Copyright © 2006, The Ohio State University
  • 32. References:
    • U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
    • 33. Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center,
    • 34. Treating Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac,