If an allergic reaction to poison ivy isn’t bad enough, the systemic poison ivy is even worse. When you are exposed to poison ivy, you get these annoying localized rash appearing on the skin where contact took place. But with a systemic reaction, the poison ivy rash rather spreads throughout the body, including to areas that had no direct contact with the plant. It can turn severe blisters that could last for weeks and it can be even life-threatening for some people.
Systemic Poison Ivy Causes
Urushiol is the main culprit to the poison ivy being a nasty plant. It is an oil produced by the plant that’s so potent that doses lighter than a grain of salt can cause blistering rashes. It also is present in poison oak, and poison sumac. You can get urushiol on you with direct contact with the poison ivy plant, or indirectly through clothing, pets, and outdoor gears. It can also get airborne when you burn poison ivy or when tiny pieces of the plant get into the air when you mow or cut the plant. The oil can remain active on any surface for one to five years. One common reason for system reactions to poison ivy is inhaling poison ivy fumes. The urushiol oil enters the bloodstream through the lungs and causes serious blisters and rashes to cover the entire body, even inside the mouth and throat. On skin contact with urushiol, it sinks in and binds to the cell membranes. It bonds with a type of white blood cell called Langerhan’s cells, and from there can spread throughout the body.
Systemic Poison Ivy Symptoms
Normal poison ivy reaction is when the rashes only appear in areas where urushiol comes in contact with the skin. The rashes turn to blisters, they dry out and disappear. The systemic poison ivy symptoms, on the other hand, consist also of rashes, however, the itchy rashes are scattered and continue to appear more and more in many spots after the four days of the first patch of rashes. These rashes turn into blisters and it would take weeks before they dry up. Liquid may ooze from the blisters, but it does not contain urushiol and is not contagious which is a common poison ivy myth. Other symptoms also include fever, headaches, vomiting, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes and joints. When urushiol fumes are inhaled, patients may experience difficulty breathing due to inflammation in the lungs and bronchial system.
Systemic Poison Ivy Treatment
Going immediately to the doctor after having the first outbreak can definitely keep the situation from worsening. The doctor will most likely prescribe steroid injections and other medications for systemic poison ivy treatment. It will start with a high dose of steroids and gradually tapers off over the course of a few weeks. The steroids suppress the immune system to keep urushiol from spreading around the body and to deal with the systemic inflammation. Steroids, however, won’t work as a preventative measure because they make the body incredibly susceptible to infection. Antihistamines and over-the-counter medications may also be taken to ease breathing, itch and relieve discomfort. The rashes should not be scratched, and the blisters shouldn’t be popped, as this can lead to an infection and leave scars. Calamine lotion can be applied topically for temporary relief of itching and loose clothing should be worn to prevent discomfort.
For children with systemic poison ivy, fingernails should be trimmed, and their hands should be kept clean to prevent infection because they usually cannot resist from scratching the lesions. Use cold or lukewarm water for oatmeal baths as they can reduce itching. In acute cases, adults and children may be required to be hospitalized.
Systemic Poison Ivy Prevention
Your best defense against poison ivy is knowing how to identify the plant and other poisonous plants (poison oak and poison sumac) and avoid touching or brushing against them when you are outdoors. Keep your pets on a leash and do not let them get into the woods as they could get urushiol on their furs. You need to wash their fur as soon as possible if you suspect poison ivy on their coats. When hiking or camping, it is best to wear long pants, socks, and long sleeves, and that you stay on the normal paths and make sure that your campsite is free of poison ivy. You can apply some creams containing the ingredient bentoquatum. It can block urushiol and offer some protection before poison ivy exposure.
When poison ivy is growing in your yard, you need to remove it using a poison ivy killer or by pulling it out manually or better yet hire a professional to remove poison ivy plant safely. Make sure to wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, and boots to avoid any contact with your skin. Do not leave any trace of the plant behind to grow especially its roots and do not burn poison ivy , oak or sumac. Wash your clothes exposed to poison ivy. Clean garden tools and gears that may have come in contact with poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. Wash them with water and soap or isopropyl alcohol. Use Tecnu Original poison ivy wash immediately after contact. It can also break down the poison ivy oil off of clothes, tools, gears and even your pet’s fur.
If you suspect exposure to poison plant, wash it off with Zanfel right after contact. It can be applied on any external body area, including the face and genitals. Zanfel is safe for use by children, pregnant or nursing women.
It is important that you take extra care when you go outdoors and remember that having systemic poison ivy is no easy matter. Be always aware of your surroundings and be vigilant of the foliage growing near your homes.