Poison Ivy – “Leaves of three, leave them be!”
Poison ivy is quite prevalent in our state. The plants are most often found in semi-sunny areas along trails and in back yards. New leaves are a shiny green; mature leaves are a deeper green, and in the fall they are a gorgeous blend of colors. Not only the leaves carry the noxious oil urushiol , but so do the stems and vines. Anyone can have a reaction to the poison at any time, even if you have been previously exposed and never had a rash. Urushiol is a highly alkaline substance, so it must be neutralized with an acid-containing cleanser. The best cleanser I have found is Technu skin cleanser (brand name). They also offer a cream that can provide a protective layer for your skin if you think you might inadvertently handle the ivy. Once exposed, apply Technu cleanser liberally to the skin and let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then rinse with LOTS of water. If the itch continues, use it again. Serious cases occur when poison ivy is used as nature’s “toilet paper,” or if it is burned and the oil reached the lungs. See your doctor for severe allergic reaction cases.
Deer ticks and Lyme Spirochetes – Avoid or handle carefully.
As the weather warms, we are coming fully into tick season in Wisconsin. Ticks can be found most anywhere now, even in urban grassy yards. Most prevalent in the woods, they lie in wait until a host passes by. They then drop onto the person or animal, or drop onto the ground and crawl upward. In general, ticks cannot crawl downward, so your best protection is to wear socks cuffed over, and shirts with collars. Hats are a must. After being outdoors be mindful of “new itches,” and check for a tick in that area. Deer ticks are the ones that carry Lyme disease. They are as small as the period at the end of this sentence. They must feed from 1-24 hours before they can pass on Lyme disease, if they are carrying it. A Lyme rash looks like a bullseye, but often there is no rash. To remove a tick, I recommend a Pro-Tick Remedy (brand name) remover tool. The tool is available via this website: http://www.tickinfo.com/protickremedy.htm This website also has excellent educational information. Once you remove the tick, do not kill it, but place it between two pieces of clear tape and enclose in a baggie with your name and birthdate. Never put a live tick in the toilet—it will survive! Drop it off at our Center and I will be happy to identify it as a deer tick or wood tick—no appointment necessary; but it may take 3-5 days as I am not at the Center every day. Testing for Lyme is best done 4-6 weeks after the bite. If you have a bullseye rash or symptoms, however, we may recommend a course of antibiotics until the test is done.
Water – Stay hydrated.
Always have water with you, and drink BEFORE you are thirsty. Having a salty snack can help you maintain your electrolytes. Drink, drink, drink! And remember there is nothing better than water—sports drinks are not a substitute.
Bumps and Bruises – Be prepared.
For all the joy that warm weather activities bring, they can also bring bruises, and aches, and pains. I recommend you should always have a jar of arnica cream handy. The Ommani Center has a terrific arnica cream available for sale, manufactured by a Wisconsin company. Applied at the first moment of injury, the arnica will stop the body from overreacting to the injury and your bruises will be smaller and heal faster.
Sunscreen – Avoid overexposure.
Yes, vitamin D is important, BUT, our skin can be easily damaged from too much exposure. Use a sunscreen product that has as few additives as possible (I do not endorse any specific brand). Always wear a hat. Another option is to purchase clothing that has sunscreen properties. To offer ideas about clothing options, as a start I’d recommend you view this website that has many products offering sun protection: http://www.tilley.com/us_en/ . There are other companies that offer clothing with sun protection, it’s worth the effort to learn what’s available.
Dr. Kocourek is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with her, call our office at 262.695.5311.