6 Facts About Poison Ivy That You Didn’t Know

It’s summertime, which means we’re spending more time outdoors. But with the return of fun in the sun and the warm weather, we also must face the summer spoilers – mosquitoes, sun burn and those itchy, rash-inducing plants: Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac.

posion ivy poison oak poison sumacPoison ivy and poison oak can grow in numerous locations in the continental United States, including open areas, wooded areas and even in your own back yard depending on where you live. Hawaii and Alaska are the only states that do not have this irritating plant. It’s also becoming more prevalent and toxic over the past several years possibly due to climate changes. Researchers are trying to link higher levels of carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures as a cause.

Most Americans have either suffered from the itchy rash following exposure to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac — or they know someone who has. In fact, approximately 75 percent of the population will have an allergic reaction when exposed to the oil, known as urushiol, found in the roots, stems, berries and leaves of the plant.

Once the urushiol touches your skin, it quickly penetrates and binds, causing a rash known as toxicodendron dermatitis. It usually begins as itchiness and redness, which then develops into a red, blistering rash. It can surface as early as one hour after exposure or take as long as 48 hours. Milder cases of the dermatitis can last five to 12 days, while a more severe case may take several weeks to resolve.

An allergic reaction can occur by direct contact with the plant or when you touch objects that are contaminated with the oil, like your clothes, gardening gloves, shoes or tools. Therefore, it’s important to wash contaminated clothes separately and to wash your tools after use.

6 Facts About Poison Ivy You Didn’t Know

  • Urushiol remains active up to five years — even after the plants have died and withered. Because of this, care must be taken when handling these plants, even in the cold months of the winter. The oil can even be found in smoke produced by burning plants and is extremely harmful to the lungs if inhaled.
  • Pets may not be allergic to urushiol but they can get it into their fur and unsuspecting owners can be exposed to the oil when they pet Fido.
  • Rarely does a rash occur with the first exposure to urushiol. However the second exposure can cause a mild to severe allergic reaction. Unfortunately, you won’t become desensitized to the allergen with repeated exposure.
  • The allergic reaction can’t be spread by scratching the rash and breaking the fluid-filled blisters. However, scratching can cause your skin to become infected.
  • It can’t be spread from person to person; only exposure to urushiol can start the rash.
  • The rash doesn’t spread on the body despite appearances. Instead, the areas that are more sensitive to urushiol or have been in contact with more oil will break out first, while the less-sensitive areas will take longer to develop the rash.

Treating the Rash
Treatment of toxicodendron dermatitis varies due to the severity of the allergic rash. Wash the affected areas as quickly as possible after exposure with isopropyl alcohol, if available, or cool water and a soap that breaks down oil, like a dish detergent. Don’t use hot water because it will allow the oil to penetrate through open skin pores. The oil can be removed in the first 10 to 20 minutes after contact but after an hour it has penetrated into your skin. Products like Tecnu and Zanfel also can prevent an allergic reaction.

If you have a mild case, after washing as described above, if you have a rash, apply a topical steroid cream after showering. Be careful using it on your face, however. You can calm the itch by taking Benadryl or other antihistamines like Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin. Calamine lotion or oatmeal baths also may offer some relief. NSAIDs, such as Motrin, Advil or Aleve, can help relieve the inflammation of the rash.

Signs You Should Seek Medical Attention
For moderate to serious dermatitis, you should consult with your doctor or seek help from eMedical Urgent Care. When the itching becomes intolerable, it’s time to see a doctor, who may prescribe a two- to three-week course of oral steroids.
Other signs you should seek medical attention include:

  • Severe blistering and swelling especially of your face, throat or the genitals
  • Fever, pus in the blisters, or red, painful swelling of your skin
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

How to Prevent Exposure
The best means of prevention is to learn how to identify the toxic plants and avoid them. Rhymes such as “Leaves of three, let them be” can help you identify poison ivy and oak, which can grow as a creeping vine with “hair-like” roots or as a shrub. Poison sumac grows in areas of standing water as a large shrub or small tree with leaf clusters of 7 to 13 leaves with black spots.

When working or hiking in areas that have these poisonous plants, decrease your exposure risk by wearing gloves, long pants, long sleeves and closed shoes. Use care when removing your clothing so you don’t rub the oil from your clothes onto your skin, and wash contaminated clothes separately.

A moment taken for prevention can prevent weeks of irritation.

Jane Sennett, DO, is the medical director for eMedical Urgent Care, formerly known as eMedical Offices (EMO). She joined eMedical Urgent Care in 2014. She is board-certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Sennett earned her medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s School of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her emergency medicine residency at Union Hospital and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Dr. Sennett holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University. She also is an attending physician at Overlook Medical Center- Union Campus and Robert Wood University Hospital at Rahway.

Common High Heel Injuries and How to Prevent Them

OK, we understand fashion comes with a price and fancy footwear is one of the ultimate accessories! Sure, they look great…but do they really feel all that great? Sometimes wearing the wrong shoe can even be dangerous. So, although they may be stylish, it’s important to understand the risks and potential harm that high heels can cause. Stats show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women – with a third suffering permanent problems from prolonged wear. Thankfully, the emergency physicians at eMedical Urgent Care in Berkeley Heights and Middletown, New Jersey, can help you treat many high heel-related injuries including sprains and strains.

Injuries from High Heels on the Rise

Research shows that high-heeled shoe injuries have nearly doubled in the past 11 years in the United States. Sprains and strains to the foot and ankle are among the most common fashionable footwear complaints. Most injuries happen to individuals in their 20s and 30s, and it doesn’t take multiple studies to tell us that walking on high heels can cause discomfort in the lower leg, ankles and feet.

High Heel Hangover

The American Osteopathic Association states that one in 10 women wear high heels at least three days a week (and 1/3 have fallen while wearing them!). Heels can inhibit the movement of our ankle muscles and reduce our range of motion…and they’re also harder to balance. This day-after foot pain (“High Heel Hangover”) can cause all sorts of foot problems.

Ankle Sprains or Fractures

Ankle sprains and fractures occur most often when wearing high heels that are too tall and have a very thin heel. Foot fractures are pretty common in women who wear heels. Perhaps the streets are just a little too uneven and your new high heels aren’t quite as sturdy as you thought resulting in a tumble. Hopefully it’s just your ego that gets bruised—but did you know that falling in high heels can cause a misalignment in your mid foot, called a foot fracture?

Repeat after us: “higher is not always better.” When choosing the perfect heel for your night out, look for a shoe with a shorter, thicker heel.

A shorter high heel can be just as effective and stylish as a taller one. If you’re concerned that you may have fractured your foot after a fall, visit eMedical Urgent Care for an evaluation; no appointment necessary.

Chronic Back Pain

This may come as a surprise, but high heels do not fit the natural shape of your foot. Because high heels force your balance to the balls of your feet, your back has to make up for this shift in weight by throwing off your body’s alignment and adding extra stress and strain on your lower back. Over time, this can cause chronic back pain. Back pain ranks as the No. 2 reason people see a doctor but thankfully some of this pain can be prevented by simply choosing the proper footwear.

Don’t Pay the “High” Heeled Price

If you wear high heels day every day, it can take a toll on your entire body. But you don’t have to give up your heels completely, just choose sensible heels (1.5 inch or less) and a wide base to spread the weight more evenly. Your feet are literally your base of support, so if they’re not happy, nothing above them will be happy either! Consider an insole to reduce the impact on your knees, alternate your shoes from one day to the next and remember to take time to stretch your calf, leg and lower back muscles daily. And remember, eMedical provides great care when you need it (open 7 days a week, without the long waits and expenses) in two locations: Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, and Middletown, New Jersey.

Tick Removal and Prevention

Ahhh, springtime in New Jersey means we get to play outdoors and enjoy the green grass and trees around us. Tick bites aren’t painful, but many can cause Lyme disease. May through July are prime “tick-birthing” seasons and a whole new crop of hungry ticks are on the hunt for their first dinner of the season. Get the facts about ticks (how to prevent them, how to remove them…and your next steps) so you know how to protect yourself this summer.

What Are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny parasitic arachnids (spiders) with brown, round bodies. They attach themselves to skin and feed on blood. The tick’s bloated body sits on top of the victim’s skin while its head is burrowed just under. Yup, they’re kinda gross, they can be dangerous…and their populations are booming.

Identifying a Tick

It is helpful if a patient can provide information about the size of the tick, whether it was actually attached to the skin, if it was engorged (full of blood) and how long it was attached. Saving the tick in a plastic baggie for future testing is also useful. A few different ticks to be aware of include:

  • Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, are tear drop shaped. Females have a reddish orange abdomen and solid black shield. The male is smaller and a uniform black in color. They are approximately the size of a poppy seed or pencil point and may transmit Lyme disease.
  • Dog ticks are oblong in shape and brown with a white collar. They are about the size of a pencil eraser and DO NOT transmit Lyme disease.
  • Lone star ticks aren’t exclusive to Texas, as its name might imply. This type of tick is roundish in shape and is brown to black in color with a white spot on its back. They may be transmitters of STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness), which causes a rash similar to Lyme disease, but has no other similarities.

Tick Tips to Remember

  • Female and nymphal ticks feed and can transmit diseases.
  • Male blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) do not feed and do not transmit diseases (they do attack to hosts but do not need blood for egg production).
  • Removing a deer tick within 24 hours greatly reduces the likelihood of Lyme disease transmission. Ticks can stay on your skin for days and even weeks; as they take in more and more blood, they become larger and engorged to the size of a marble.
  • Not all ticks are infected; according to the CDC, on average, 20-50% of deer ticks are able to transmit diseases.
  • Once removed, save the tick for later identification and testing.
  • Don’t be afraid to get outside and get active…just take some personal precautions to provide the best protection from contracting tick-borne diseases (see below).

Cover Up to Prevent Tick Bites

  • Wear light colored clothes so ticks can easily be seen and removed.
  • Tuck pants into boots or socks to avoid ticks crawling up loose pant legs (they like dark, warm places on your body such as under your hairline, in your armpits and on your belly).
  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with grassy areas and shrubs where tick populations may be high.
  • Use a repellant with DEET on skin which can provide protection up to several hours.
  • Properly check yourself, others and pets if exposed to areas where ticks are likely located.

Removing a Tick

Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull it out without twisting or jerking. Then wash your hands and the spot where you found it with good soap and disinfect the skin with rubbing alcohol.

Treatment after a Tick Bites

eMedical Urgent Care provides tick removal as well as blood work for diagnosis of Lyme disease and treatment of other insect bites. Antibiotics are commonly used for oral treatment of this inflammatory disease. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention immediately for a tick bite; at eMedical Urgent Care, all walk-ins are welcome. Feel better knowing we’re here.

Stay tuned for another post on how to identify potential signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease.

Common Eye Injuries Defined

Eye Although our face structure is designed to naturally protect our eyes from injuries, unexpected accidents do occur. Getting sand or soap in the eyes is usually minor, as long as it’s flushed out promptly either naturally with tears or flushing with water. Remember not to rub the eyes though; this may scratch the cornea. Direct blunt trauma or impact to the eye or eye socket from a baseball or fist can cause more serious injuries, which may result in vision loss or blindness.

Not all eye injuries are avoidable, but precautions such as wearing safety or sport goggles can help to reduce the risk of eye injuries. See below some common eye injuries defined:

  • Eye Swelling/Black Eye – When an eye is injured from blunt trauma (like a baseball moving at high speed), bruising and swelling can result in a black eye from the blood that collects around the eye. The best immediate treatment for this type of injury is an ice pack.
  • Corneal Abrasion (scratched eye) – The cornea can become scratched or cut from rubbing the eye when a foreign object is present (such as dust or sand). Corneal abrasions are very uncomfortable and cause eye redness, pain, watery eyes, and sensitivity to light. A scratch also can make your eye susceptible to infection from bacteria, so it’s important to seek treatment if you suspect a laceration.
  • Penetrating or Foreign Object– A foreign particle that enters the eye and can irritate or injure the cornea and conjunctiva. If metal or a fish hook penetrates your eye, visit urgent care right away. Do not attempt to remove the object yourself.
  • Foreign Substance– Sorry to burst your bubble, but foam parties can cause damage to the eyes. Substances accidentally splashed or rubbed in the eye, such as soap, hairspray or workplace chemicals cause redness, discomfort and irritation. If the substance is not flushed out immediately, the eye can receive a chemical burn. So, if you do have a foam party to go to, wear swim goggles!
  • Hyphema – Caused by blunt trauma to the eye, a hyphema is pooling of blood in the anterior (front) eye chamber (the space between the cornea and the iris) caused by broken blood vessels. Hyphemas are serious eye injuries and require medical assistance.
  • Traumatic Iritis – An inflammation of the iris, or colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil (iris) can occur after an eye injury. Traumatic iritis is caused by an injury to the eye (like a poke or blow to the eye from a blunt object like a ball or fist). With a risk of permanent decreased vision, traumatic iritis usually requires treatment.
  • Ocular Inflammation (Red Eye) – The most common cause of ocular inflammation is conjunctivitis, an eye infection caused by viruses or bacteria. Red eye also can be caused by a foreign object or substance in the eye.
  • Keratitis – There are many types of keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea. Some types are caused by reflective exposure to ultraviolet light (sunburn to the cornea), and bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Contact lenses, dust, pollen and contaminated makeup also can cause keratitis.

No Appointments Necessary!

Most minor eye injuries will remedy on their own over 24 to 48 hours but it’s wise to treat all eye injuries as potential emergencies. Remember, you only have one pair of eyes. Never hesitate to seek medical attention immediately for eye injuries. At eMedical Urgent Care, all walk-ins are welcome. Our caring and compassionate staff can help take care of minor eye injuries. Feel better knowing we’re here.

NJ Summer Camp Physicals

Summer Camp in NJMost summer camps require children to get a physical before they arrive (and some before you’re allowed to even register)! At eMedical Urgent Care, we realize that moms and dads are constantly on the go, which is why we are pleased to offer walk-in summer camp physicals and sports physicals. Our professional, experienced staff provide convenient, high-quality medical care when you’re on a tight schedule and outside of regular doctor’s office hours…even on the weekends.

Why Physicals are Necessary

No matter if your children are heading to camp, swimming, playing football, cheerleading, golf or running track, there’s always a risk of getting hurt. Make sure these little bodies are ready for the season ahead by preparing with a pre-participation physical examination (PPE). If you feel this requirement is just one more hurdle in the registration process, just think about this: a physical could save your child’s life.

The purpose of the physical is to screen kids for health issues that may pose a risk when they’re at camp or playing sports. Medical conditions can be discovered during the exam that require further evaluation and treatment before participation can begin. Ensure your child is in the best physical condition possible to meet the demands of the sport or camp.

What to Bring

eMedical Urgent Care makes it easy to get your children’s camp, school or sports physicals. All necessary forms are completed onsite at the time of your visit. Remember to bring the form, a copy of your child’s most recent immunization records and insurance card.

What to Expect

Your healthcare providers at eMedical Urgent Care will include the following in the exam:
• Review your child’s medical history
• Ask about any use medications including drugs, vitamins or dietary supplements
• Record height and weight
• Perform a Physical exam
• Check blood pressure, pulse, respirations and oxygen saturation
• Test your child’s vision
• Check your child’s heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
• Test all major joints, strength, and flexibility
Following the physical examination, the doctor will either sign a form allowing your child’s participation in camp or request a follow-up exam, additional immunizations, testing, or specific treatment for a medical problem.

No Appointments Necessary!

At eMedical Urgent Care, we’re excited to help you keep your kids healthy for a safe and super happy summer! No appointments necessary; all walk-ins welcome! There’s never been a better (or faster) way to get your children’s camp and sports physical exams. Plus, with our caring and compassionate staff to help take care of minor breaks, sprains and cuts, eMedical Urgent Care is here to help you get back in the game and feeling better fast if an accident occurs. Feel better knowing we’re here.

From workplace health services, such as blood tests, worker’s compensation injury evaluations, X-ray services and DOT physicals, to children’s physical exams, eMedical Urgent Care is the place to go for quick care.