Beware of Poisonous Plants

Mesa Verde National Park - Poison ivy

My husband and I live on 10 acres, most of which are woods and pasture. We used to have sheep and horses to eat up the long grass and keep the weeds at bay.  Now that we don’t have any animals, these annoyingly prolific plants have taken over our front pasture, turning it into a regular weed-fest complete with a colony of stinging nettles. (If you’ve ever brushed up against these prickly pests you know what a pain they are, literally!) I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s poison ivy or oak lurking in our woods as well.

The fact is you’ll find menacing vegetation almost anywhere – in ditches, forests, fields and pastures, in your yard and garden, or even in potted outdoor plants.

Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer, whether it’s hiking, gardening, playing sports, camping, or working in the yard. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of your surroundings and beware of plants that are poisonous.

Common Plants that Can Be Harmful to the Touch

Poison ivy and oak

“Leaves of Three, Let Them Be!”

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac: These pestilent plants contain an oily sap called urushiol, which is found on the stems, leaves and roots of the plant. The tenacious resin sticks to practically any surface (clothing, shoes, garden tools, camping gear, athletic equipment, even pet hair) and can easily transfer to your skin, causing an itchy, red rash which could surface within hours or even up to four days after exposure. Visit poison-ivy.org for all the facts.

WildParsnip

Wild Parsnip spreads like wildfire and causes severe burns and blisters.

Wild Parsnip – often found along roadsides, in ditches, pastures and open fields, this wicked weed reacts to sunlight, resulting in serious burns and blisters. Read this recent report from CBS News It’s alarming!!

More Phototoxic Plants (ones that become toxic when exposed to sunlight): celery, carrots, dill, parsley, limes, and figs.

Chrysanthemums (aka, mums)

Euphorbia (Spurge)

Flower bulbs (e.g., hyacinth, narcissus, daffodils, lilies, tulips)

Burning & Stinging Nettles

Prickly plants like roses, thistle, cacti, wild blackberries and raspberries

Campsis radicans (trumpet vine, or trumpet creeper, or cow itch vine, or hummingbird vine)
Trumpet Creeper – it may look beautiful, but don’t be rash! Touching it may cause an allergic reaction, plus it’s slightly toxic if eaten.

Geraniums and Marigolds

Giant Hogweed (heracleum sphondylium)
Giant Hogweed – these umbrella-shaped flowers with big leaves can cause painful skin and eye irritations.

Tasty, but Deadly  
Some people like to add petals or leaves to tea, salads and different culinary dishes or use them as garnish for desserts. And, oftentimes our pets will nibble on plants. But, there are several kinds of flowers and greenery that should never be on the menu as they can make you (or your furry friend) seriously ill.

Click here for an extensive list of poisonous plants and plant parts.

Not sure what plants are safe for your pets? You’ll find a list of toxic and non-toxic plants at aspca.org.

Preventative Measures

  • Wear protective clothing (e.g., long sleeves, pants, shoes/boots with socks) when hiking in areas where these types of plants grow.
  • Wear gloves when gardening, weeding, trimming shrubs, and doing yard work.
  • Wash any garden tools, sports gear or other objects with soap and water after using them.
  • If you think your pet’s been rolling around in poison ivy or other suspicious plants, give him a bath with pet shampoo and water (be sure to wear rubber gloves).
  • Don’t burn poisonous plants as the noxious substance can go airborne and get in your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs.
  • Stay away from plants with three leaves (e.g., poison ivy and oak), but don’t rely solely on the “leaves of three, let them be” notion. Some, like Poison Sumac, can have up to 13 leaves.

Remedies/Treatments

  • Rinse your skin with cold water right away – avoid soap, however, as it can spread the resin. Don’t forget to scrub under fingernails too.
  • Take a cool, oatmeal bath – I recommend Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment – to help dry up any blisters and weeping rashes.
  • Apply a topical cream or lotion with calamine and zinc oxide to affected areas.
  • Take an oral antihistamine – like Benadryl – to help relieve some of the itching and skin irritation.
  • If you experience a severe reaction – e.g., swelling, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, nausea, or signs of an infection – see a doctor or head to the emergency room immediately!

Since I’ve barely “scratched” the surface on this subject, I recommend doing some research on your own.  Check out these sites to learn more about poisonous plants, what they look like, where to find them and the side effects.

Aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu

Canaryzoo.com

Everydayhealth.com

Be careful out there!

Smart Perks Blogger Catherine B. has suddenly developed a case of Botanophobia (fear of plants). 

 

Healing and Dealing with Allergies at Home

Preventing Allergy

This isn’t me, but it basically is how I feel.

There’s no nice way of putting this – allergies stink! Or rather, they might stink; I wouldn’t know because MY NOSE IS COMPLETELY CLOGGED. Yup, thanks to allergies.

But have you ever realized how expensive allergy meds are? Of course, I still begrudgingly buy my $20 bottle of Zyrtec because it’s so far helped me the most, but I still have itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and a runny nose. Not a good look, I’ll tell you that!

However, over-the-counter meds aren’t the only way to alleviate your symptoms – of both allergies and also the common cold. With the growing popularity of homeopathic treatments, there are plenty of ways to help boost your immune system and provide a little relief from the springtime season. And even if you’re not an allergy sufferer, the best part is all of these suggestions are perfectly helpful just in maintaining your everyday health! Call it a win-win.

  1. Tea Time!

Yes, I’m sure you’ve drank tea for a sore throat before. But herbal tea has many, many uses besides just for a caffeine boost or to sooth an itchy throat. There are certain kinds of teas that specifically help allergy symptoms. For example, rooibos contains ingredients that can serve as an antihistamine – the active component of allergy meds like Claritin!

blog_tea.jpg

Firstly – when choosing what kind of tea to drink, think about what you need it to do for you that day. I like green tea in the morning for the caffeine and antioxidant boost, and herbal tea such as Mandarin orange or chamomile in the afternoon to de-stress and warm up my throat.

Bonus: adding locally sourced honey can have an effect on your allergies. The idea is that it helps build your immunity to the pollen found in your area. Not all scientists agree, but why not give it a shot? It’s just honey, honey.

So, another use for tea that you might not have heard about – specifically, using the tea bags themselves. Don’t chuck a brewed bag when you’re done making a cup!

If you’re experiencing the common allergy symptom of dry, itchy eyes, placing a moderately warm (test on the back of your hand first), damp tea bag over your eyes does wonders for relieving the irritation. You could also put them in the fridge until they’re cold; either works, it’s just about your preference. Both black and green tea work, but most herbal teas will do, too. Just don’t use peppermint – it stings!

Or, if you prefer more traditional eye relief, I have found these eye drops to be the best for allergies.

home-remedies-for-itchy-eyes-tea-bags

Just trust me: it works very well and feels so good!

  1. Neti Pot to Get Rid of Gunk

Yeah, I know that’s a little gross, but if you don’t own a neti pot, I highly recommend them because that’s exactly what they do. Essentially, neti pots (or other products like bulb syringes or squeeze bottles) irrigate your nasal cavity and sinuses with a warm saltwater solution, clearing out all of the allergens like dust and pollen that can be making your allergies worse. They also break down the stuff stuck in your sinuses, helping it to drain better and allowing you to breathe well again.

I know this might seem a little shocking method to some, but if you read and follow the instructions, it’s really quite simple, and the results are amazing. Whenever I use my neti pot the relief is amazing – aside from clearing my nose, all of that terrible sinus pressure is gone, and miraculously so too is my headache!

neti pot.png

Sure, you look kinda silly. So what?

Really, there are only two things to keep in mind for safety. This one should be obvious, but it’s imperative you keep the neti pot clean, which only requires hot water and mild soap, so as not to allow bacteria to grow, but some kinds are dishwasher safe. The other is to make sure you use sterile water in the saline solution.

This is the neti pot I have, because I find that glass is easier to clean. As you can see, for the cost of the neti pot and the saline mixture, you’re looking at about $25 for months and months of relief. They’re a cost-effective solution for the thrifty sinus problem sufferer. You’re worth that! Kick those allergies to the curb – or at least to the tissue.

  1. Vitamins, Get Your Vitamins!

I’m a huge proponent of vitamins already. I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as a large part of a well-balanced diet, but there are plenty of reasons why vitamins and supplements might be right for you. For instance, I take a complex B vitamin every day for energy, fish oil for heart health and my hair (it’s not all about health, people; sometimes a girl just wants shiny hair) and an eye health vitamin for, well, my eye health. Like I did, be sure to check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your daily routine.

New Vita

Here are a few vitamins tied to allergy alleviation you might want to run by doc:

Vitamin C – Ah, the Superman of the Vitamin world. Though this one is pretty easy to get from diet alone (a glass of lemon water here, a spinach salad there), studies show American adults still don’t get the daily recommended dose. But why? Vitamin C can help with tissue and bone repair, immune system building, and reduce histamine (the hormone produced by allergic reactions that makes you feel yucky). Again, if nothing else, does eating an extra orange a day really hurt anything?

Unless of course you’re allergic to oranges… anyway, moving on….

Butterbur– Unfortunately, no, I’m not telling you to eat a bunch of butter. Butterbur helps to combat inflammation and headaches, and also helps mitigate the nasal congestion and itchy eyes and nose we all suffer from during seasonal allergy time.

Probiotics – Probiotics are great for a bunch of different health issues, because they help to maintain and culture the good kinds of bacteria found in your digestive tract. This can help everything from upset tummies to improving your immune system, and can help with your allergies, too.

Hopefully, if you take some of these tips to heart, your seasonal allergies will go away and you can start to actually enjoy this glorious season!

Blogger Katie U., SmartPerks employee, never goes anywhere without her antihistamine eye drops and a packet of tissues for a solid three months of the year. But at least she can stop to smell the roses without sneezing up a storm!