Summer is a time filled with fun in the sun. However, some poisonings are more common during the warmer months. The following are commonly held beliefs that may cause more harm than good:
Myth: The rash from poison ivy is contagious.
Truth: The skin effects from poison ivy are caused by an allergic reaction to the oily resin inside of the plant. This resin is not “poisonous.” Many believe poison ivy is contagious because they got a rash without touching the plant. This can happen when the resin from poison ivy clings to a garden tool, an article of clothing, a pet, or other object and then an individual touches that specific object. Poison ivy is not spread by someone coming into contact with the rash on another person.
Myth: A person can dry out a poison ivy rash by putting bleach or gasoline on the rash.
Truth: While this will cause a drying effect, there is a high risk for skin burns. Bleach is an irritant that can cause burns if not immediately washed off. Bleach on an open wound increases the risk for skin injury. Burns on top of a poison ivy rash will result in increased pain and infection risk.
Myth: A person can be desensitized to poison ivy by eating the leaves.
Truth: A person is more likely to get a poison ivy rash at the opening or ending of the digestive tract than they are to eat the poison ivy in a manner that would result in desensitization.
Myth: Burning poison ivy plants is an efficient way to get rid of them without having to touch them.
Truth: Never burn poison ivy. Burning the plant can release the oily resin into the air and cause moderate to severe irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.
Myth: Using pure aloe from an aloe plant on wounds will help them heal.
Truth: Aloe is a documented skin irritant. While use of aloe work for some people, for others, use of pure aloe may worsen skin irritation for others.
Myth: Cooking poisonous mushrooms make them safe to eat.
Truth: Cooking, canning, freezing, or any other method does not make poisonous mushrooms safe to eat, they will still be poisonous.
Myth: If bitten by a snake, cut the area and suck out any venom.
Truth: The cut and suck method is not effective in removing venom and is often more harmful that the venom effects would have been. Delayed wound healing and/or infection are possible complications.
Myth: If bitten by a snake, apply a tourniquet.
Truth: Applying a tourniquet does not keep the venom in a certain area and can cut off circulation resulting in damage to the skin and tissue damage.
Myth: If bitten by a snake, apply ice.
Truth: Applying ice is not helpful in treating a snake bite and can cause damage to the bite site.
Myth: It is safe to swim in a river or lake next to boats that have been tied together.
Truth: Swimming behind boats can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning from the boat exhaust.
Myth: There is no harm in teaching a child to attach a lead sinker to fishing line by using their teeth.
Truth: Accidently swallowing lead sinkers can lead to serious lead poisoning. As sinkers are small, they are easy to swallow and children may not think to let anyone know they swallowed one.
The West Virginia Poison Center provides comprehensive emergency poison information, prevention and educational resources to West Virginians 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The WVPC is staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians with special training in treatment of poisonings. Located in Charleston, WV, the WVPC is a part of the West Virginia University-Charleston Division and located next to CAMC Memorial Hospital.