There are plenty of potential risks that present themselves when working outdoors. Of course, one of the most dreaded is the potential contact with poisonous plants. If you’ve ever experienced a poison plant rash then you already know maddeningly itchy—and even painful—it can be. Between the redness, swelling, and blisters, it’s certainly no fun. But a severe case can actually become quite serious.
Whether you’re a homeowner who likes to work outdoors—or you’re a landscape business owner with crews under you care—you want to do what you can to avoid contact with plants like poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy while working outdoors.
That’s why we’re providing some helpful tips to help keep you safe.
Take Preventative Steps
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to dress appropriately. Your clothing is your first line of defense against poisonous plants. If you know that you could come into contact with a poisonous plant, you should be wearing long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and work boots. Minimizing skin exposure is key. You might even consider a neck gaiter that can be pulled up over the face.
Barrier skin creams can also provide some protection if you know that you may be in contact with one or more of these plants.
It will also help to familiarize yourself (or your crews) with the most common poisonous plants so that they can be properly identified in the field. While the saying “leaves of three, let it be,” is helpful for identifying poison ivy and oak, poison sumac typically comes in clusters of anywhere from 7 to 13 leaves. Even certain varieties of poison ivy and oak can have more than three leaves so don’t take it as a set-in-stone rule but more of a reminder to be cautious.
Up close with Poison Sumac.
Addressing Contact when it Occurs
Sometimes contact with these plants is unavoidable. Perhaps you even know you’re going to be working in an area that has poisonous plants—and you’re trying to get rid of them. The hope is that your protective layers will eliminate direct contact.
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is the urushiol oil in these plants which causes a reaction. It is released when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged, or burned. When the oil touches the skin, it causes an allergic reaction.
Burning one of these poisonous plants and creating allergens that are inhaled can quickly become a serious medical emergency as the lungs become impacted.
In terms of addressing a skin reaction, it is helpful to carry urushiol oil cleansing wipes which can help promptly remove the sticky oil. If you’re in charge of a landscape crew, make this part of their First Aid kit. If you are a homeowner, make sure you have this on hand.
Wet compresses and antihistamines may be needed to address itching and reduce blistering.
If the rash becomes severe or there is any struggle with breathing, seek medical attention quickly. The sensitivity of the individual to the urushiol—as well as their level of exposure—can impact the reaction. It can dramatically vary from person to person.
Your Safety is Imperative
When it comes to working outdoors, your safety is so important. At Nature’s Mulch and Landscape Supply, we are well-aware of the many dangers that can arise when performing lawn and landscaping tasks—and we take them seriously.
That’s why we want to pass along some of our knowledge and help you to protect yourself. Some simple prevention coupled with better awareness can go a really long way in preventing an allergic reaction to poisonous plants.