Contact with Poisonous Plants

Irritant contact dermatitis (ICD) from plants is a very common phenomenon as potentially irritant plants and plant products are commonly found in the everyday environment, including the home, garden, workplace,recreational settings and of course woodland.

There are two main subcategories these plants fall into:

Mechanical Irritants: These involve the irritation being caused by a physical part of the plant.The common mechanical plant irritants include thorns, spines, glochids, trichomes, and sharp-edged leaves.

Chemical Irritants: These involve the plant spreading a chemical onto the skin. any chemical irritants have yet to be elucidated, but known culprits include calcium oxalate, protoanemonin, isothiocyanates, bromelain, diterpene esters, alkaloids, and other chemical irritants such as naphthoquinone and acids.

Below you will find identification cards to help identify common woodland plants that may cause contact poisoning:

Picture Reference [4]

The best method for dealing with poisoning from contact with plants is prevention:

  • Identify plants and remove from regularly used areas.
  • When working near poisonous plants ensure appropriate clothing is warn.
  • Educate members to avoid touching unfamiliar plants.

In many cases, contact dermatitis does not require medical treatment.

  • Avoid touching the trigger plant.
  • Washing with soap and cool water can remove or inactivate most of the offending substance, if it is done immediately after exposure.
  • If blistering develops, cold moist compresses applied for 20 minutes three times a day are helpful.
  • Calamine lotion and cool oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
  • Oral  antihistamines can also relieve itching.
  • For mild cases that cover a relatively small area, hydrocortisonecream in non-prescription strength may be sufficient.
  • Avoid scratching, which worsens the inflammation.

If going out in the field you may find it useful to take a set of these Flora and Fauna Health and Safety Cards they act as a reminder of what to do in an Emergency should arise. Often these can be stressful situations and a simple reminder can be very helpful. Click on the link below to access the cards.