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Ah, the joys of summer with its blooming flower beds, thriving gardens and rich colours and scents that stimulate our senses. But summer also means exposure to certain wild plants, like ragweed and poison ivy, which can spoil some of that seasonal enjoyment. Let’s learn more about them.
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), a very widespread plant, is one of the leading causes of hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis (as opposed to perennial allergic rhinitis, which lasts all year). Only people allergic to its pollen will present allergy symptoms, including:
With its green, jagged leaves similar to those of the carrot plant, ragweed is easy to recognize. It can reach a height of 1.5 metres. It starts growing in May, blossoms in July and pollinates from August to October, which is when it causes hay fever symptoms. It then dies in fall, after the first frost. Ragweed is commonly found in southern Quebec (Outaouais, Montreal and Montérégie), where it grows in urban areas, agricultural fields and along highways.
If you have hay fever, there are precautions you can take to limit your exposure to ragweed pollen and minimize its impact:
There are many over-the-counter medications that work well to relieve allergy symptoms:
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) grows along the edges of wooded areas, riverbanks and highways. It is known for the painful, itchy skin rash (contact dermatitis) it causes due to a substance called urushiol found in its sap.
The reaction to poison ivy is a type of allergy, which means you may not develop symptoms the first time you are exposed to it, but rather the second time. Symptoms generally start 24 to 48 hours after direct or indirect (e.g. touching the contaminated fur of an animal) contact and include:
It takes 7 to 15 days for symptoms to disappear. Remember that most people will develop a reaction to poison ivy.
Poison ivy is a perennial plant that can grow as a climbing or trailing vine or a shrub. It produces small white berries in September and its leaves are reddish in the spring, dark green in the summer and multicoloured in the fall. Each of its leaves has three almond-shaped leaflets.
If you have a poison ivy rash, talk to your family pharmacist. He or she may suggest one of the following treatments to help relieve the itchiness:
If symptoms are severe or widespread, if you develop infection (pain and pus) or fever, be sure to see your doctor. You may need antibiotics.
Your family pharmacist is well qualified to give you the right advice when you run into minor health problems. Just ask!
[UNIPRIX] - The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.