With the long-anticipated arrival of summer comes an irrepressible urge to explore the outdoors with camping trips, hiking, and other adventures — especially if you’re a family with children in tow.
People who live in rural settings may have a sharper awareness of which plants to avoid — but no matter where you live, it’s always useful to refresh your memory. Knowing which plants are dangerous will help you avoid rashes and allergic reactions that can lead to urgent care visits. Here are 4 wild plants you and your family will definitely want to be aware of (and avoid!) during your summer adventures.
1. Poison Oak
This plant, easily identified by its three jagged leaves, produces an itchy, painful rash on skin due to a substance called urushiol. The rash left by poison oak lasts one to three weeks. In most cases the symptoms are not severe enough to require medical attention, but some people have more severe reactions than others. Depending on how extensive and prolonged the contact may have been, reactions can be serious and merit a visit to urgent care.
2. Poison Sumac
Poison sumac, growing in the form of either a shrub or a tree, thrives in wet areas, especially around the Mississippi River. The rash of poison sumac can potentially be more severe than poison oak or poison ivy, even though it contains urushiol, as well. An easy way to identify this poisonous plant is by noting that its leaves are fairly spread apart on one single branch. They also tend to grow upward near the top of the shrub.
3. Poison Ivy
Even if you live in the city, you have probably run into poison ivy at some point. Its three-leaf structure is well recognized by many. Just like poison oak and sumac, poison ivy also contains urushiol. Most people are aware that poison ivy is dangerous and stay away from it as best they can. Still, though, there are thousands of cases of poison ivy per year. If you realize that you’ve come into contact with poison ivy, wash your hands right away to prevent it spreading and follow the treatment plan of your family doctor or urgent care professional.
Very different from the previously mentioned poisonous plants, nightshade is one to keep a special eye out for. Although the species of nightshade includes non-poisonous plants such as tomatoes, other varieties can be very dangerous. The most common poisonous nightshades are identified by either black berries or threatening purple flowers. Symptoms of eating nightshade include slowed breathing, stomach pain and fever. Needless to say, if you come into contact with this plant, seek medical attention immediately. If you believe that potentially poisonous nightshade flowers or berries have been ingested, head immediately to the ER for preventative treatment.
Staying safe in the natural world
Some people are less prone to be sensitive to the poisonous plants, but they do pose a general risk to everyone, regardless of age. Knowing about the dangerous plants that grow in your area can allow you to share useful information with your children that will help keep them safe year after year.