Poison ivy is a type of contact dermatitis. The sap of the poison ivy, oak and sumac plants is covered in a sap that most people will form an allergic reaction to. The plant developed the sap as a defense mechanism to help ensure its survival. The sap of these plants contains a chemical that humans and most mammals are allergic to.
Poison ivy can occur internally as well as externally. Intentional ingestion of these plants is extremely rare. Small children are at greatest risk of ingesting the plant. Internal poison ivy cases occur because a person inhales the sap. Chemicals in the sap become airborne when the plant is accidentally or intentionally burned. Internal cases of poison ivy may require medical attention, particularly when the lungs become irritated.
External cases of poison ivy will heal on their own time. The most common symptoms are an itchy, allergic rash. Scratching the rash can cause the condition to spread to other areas on the skin. Treatment involves not scratching the rash and controlling the symptoms. Calamine lotions and oatmeal baths can bring the rash down over time.
The condition is irritating, but it is easily avoided. Every child learns the simple rhyme â€œLeaves of three, let it be.â€ When accidental contact with poison ivy, poison oak or sumac does occur, the person who came into contact with the plant can avoid developing contact dermatitis by washing the affected area with soap and water within 20 minutes of contact with the plant.
When a person must burn the poison ivy plant, he needs to wear a simple dust mask. The dust mask, available at most hardware stores, will prevent the larger sap particles from moving in. When a person finishes with the mask, he should remove it carefully and dispose of it properly.