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Poisonous Plants: Symptoms and First Aid

Symptoms and First Aid


Signs or symptoms associated with skin contact with poisonous plants may include:

  • Red rash within a few days of contact
  • Bumps, red patches or streaking, or weeping blisters. (NOTE: fluids in blisters will not cause blisters to spread on you or to others).
  • Swelling
  • Itching

First Aid

Workers who have come in contact with poisonous plants should take these steps:

  • Rinse skin immediately
    • Use rubbing alcohol, poison plant washes, degreasing soap (such as dishwashing soap) or detergent, and lots of water.
    • Rinse often. This prevents wash solutions from drying on the skin and further spreading the urushiol. Urushoil is an oil in the plant that can cause an allergic reaction, referred to as contact dermatitis.
  • Scrub under nails with a brush.
  • Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
    • Follow the directions on any creams and lotions. Do not apply to broken skin, such as open blisters.
    • Oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
  • Take an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (like Benadryl) to help relieve itching.
    • Follow directions on the package.
    • Be aware that antihistamines may make you drowsy.
    • If children touch work clothing contaminated with urushiol, contact a pediatrician to find out the appropriate dosage.
  • Get medical help in severe cases, or if the rash is on the face or genitals.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room if you or another worker:
    • Has a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing.
    • Has had a severe reaction to poisonous plants in the past.