Whether you’re new to the Portland area or a lifelong resident, it’s likely that you’ve actively embraced the idea of hiking and exploring the amazing Pacific Northwest. Wildlife in its natural state, clean air — not to mention gorgeous gorges, snow-capped volcanoes, forests that seem to go on forever, breathtaking vistas around every Doug fir …
What’s not to love?
Well, a few things, actually.
Let’s start with something nature provides to hikers that they’d rather do without: the infamous — and poisonous — plant triad of ivy, oak and sumac.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum in our neck of the woods) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) all contain urushiol, an oil that triggers an allergic reaction in nearly 85 percent of the population. Merely brushing against the leaves of any of these plants or touching the roots or stems can result in an itchy, burning rash, plus swelling and weepy blisters that can last for up to two weeks. Urushiol is usually colorless (although it can sometimes appear slightly yellow), and the oil can remain on objects for several months. Urushiol concentration is highest on plants in the spring and summer.
In general, reactions to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are mild enough that they can be cared for at home. Some of the typical home remedies that offer a measure of comfort include: cool compresses, baking-soda-and-water washes, calamine lotion, or an over-the-counter antihistamine are usually sufficient to wait out the healing process.
In some cases, though, more serious symptoms occur, such as severe blistering and swelling, fever, infected blisters or a rash that lasts longer than two weeks. In these cases, it is wise to seek medical help.
The staff at Portland Urgent Care treats many cases of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac every year. From basic dressing and care to prescription steroids and medications for severe reactions, we are available — even after hours — to help ease the discomfort and help the healing.
Contact Portland Urgent Care/MobilMED if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other medical topic.