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The joys of summer - and the annoyances; a review of pests and pitfalls.

The Joys of Summer - And The Annoyances A Review of Pests and Pitfalls

Poison Ivy - the facts and fiction

* Is it necessary to come in contact with a plant to get poison ivy?

Fact: Ivy poisoning (dermatitis) can occur if an animal brushes against the plant and someone then touches the animal. It can also occur if the ivy contaminates clothing that then is touched - even if it happens several days later.

* Can standing close to poison ivy, oak, or sumac plants produce dermatitis?

Fact: Contamination can only occur by handling a bruised or injured plant, by inhaling smoke from a burning plant, or by contacting the active irritant from other objects. (Urushiol is the active ingredient. it is a complex allergen buried in the leaves interior layers. The plant is most virulent late in the season when leaves become brittle.)

* Can washing with strong soap several hours after exposure prevent dermatitis?

Fact: Skin must be washed within ten minutes of contact to remove all traces of urushiol. Washing within thirty minutes with a strong soap after exposure serves to minimize the severity of the poisoning.

Ultraviolet Rays - precursor to skin cancer.

The dangers of exposure to the summer sun have been expounded through all means of communication. The rate of skin cancer is rising because the public chooses to ignore medical facts, preferring cosmetics "beauty" over prudent concern.

Theories also warn that the protective layer of the earth has been eroded and that harmful rays are seeping through to inflict solar irradiation that is responsible for a rising cancer rate, especially melanoma.

Fact: Sunscreens can be helful. Developments in cream insulations that correspond to skin types provide some insurance. None is protective against overexposure.

* Can sun-blocking chemicals cause allergic reactions?

Fact: The chemical benzophenone has been implicated in causing allergic reactions. Some lotions use para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), which has been known to trigger allergic reactions.

Some sunscreen users misdiagnose their reactions to the effect of sunlight and aggravate the problem by using more, not less, sunscreen.

Consumers should test a sun-blocking product on a small portion of the skin to determine whether a sensitivity to the chemicals exists. * Is exposure to the sun cumulative?

Fact: The skin remembers. Every exposure to the sun's rays eventually takes its accumulated toll. Skin blemishes, cancerous growths, and other aberrations of the skin show up years after exposure.

At extreme risk are individuals who have a family history of malignant melanoma and people who have moles and irregular pigment patterns. Even a mole present at birth indicates a high degree of vulnerability.

Photosensitivity: when medicines and sunlight don't mix.

Sun-worshippers taking medications are cautioned that many drugs can cause abnormal skin reactions upon exposure.

Many prescription drugs and some over-the-counter medications, both internal and topical, can cause skin to become especially sensitive to sunlight exposure.

* Reactions can be of two types:

Phototoxic, the result of a chemical in the drug absorbing ultraviolet light at the skin level and enhancing its effects.

Photoallergic, a reaction to certain chemicals in the drug that are changed by exposure to ultraviolet light and converted to allergens, causing itching and hivelike rashes.

Phototoxic and photoallergic reactions usually clear up when exposure to ultraviolet light is eliminated. One exception is a mask-like pigmentation of the face. This darkening of the areas of the face can occur from daily exposure to sunlight if the individual uses hormones such as estrogen, which is a component of birth control pills.

Photosensitizing perfumes, soaps, cosmetics, and after-shave lotions, such as musk, lavender, sandalwood, and lime oil, are notorious for their interactions.

The following commonly used drugs have been implicated in causing phototoxicity and photoallergy when used in conjunction with sunlight exposure:

Insect Stings - responding to a range of allergic reactions.

The normal reaction from an insect sting is temporary pain, reddening of the sting area, and a hardening of the sting site. Is it similar to bites from flies and mosquitoes?

Fact: The sting pain is moderate, but it can usually be distinguished from ordinary insect bites. Apply cold compresses as soon as possible.

* What are the signs of an allergic reaction to an insect sting?

Fact: Anaphylaxis is the reaction to the introduction of insect poison into the system through a bite. It is accompanied by extreme hypersensitivity in various organs.

The respiratory system may react with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and nausea.

The cardiovascular system may react with sudden hypotension (drop in blood pressure) and shock.

* Can self-administration of emergency measures be helpful?

* What precautions shold be taken when exposed to stinging insects?

Fact: Minimize the amount of skin exposed outdoors by wearing a hat, preferably with a net or covering that will include the neck. Wear a long-sleeve shirt and long slacks, and avoid brightly colored clothing, scented perfumes, hair sprays, and shiny jewelry.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1989
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