allergic reaction to unknown plant?

nancyw(7b SE VA)August 12, 2002

I believe there is a plant in my garden that causes red marks on my skin on contact[looks like a burn mark]. There are no other symptoms; the skin stays red for months; eventually turns light brown and that change in pigmentation appears permanent; first area of contact is over one year old. [i am Caucasian]. I have a huge garden and don't even know where to start figuring this out. MD is no help. Any ideas?

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Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who can do tests for allergies. it will give you information on the general family of plants you are sensitive to, not necessarily to any one particular plant. To find that out, you'll have to test each one, one at a time. i guess you are absolutely sure it's a plant causing the rash?? You doctor should at least have referred you to a skin specialist IMHO.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2002 at 8:55PM
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adrianag(AL z7)

Unfortunately, you will need to be vigilant and do your own detective work....I had a similar problem when I was growing salad greens commercially. Not the long-term rash/redness you describe, but more of a poison-ivy type reaction. Skin testing at the allergist was not able to identify anything (as they are very limited in what they test for). Only steroids would clear up the oozing sores.

Finally, one day I broke out in the typical rash and was able to determine that the previous day I had only worked in two of my growing beds - arugula and red giant mustard. I took a leaf of each, bruised the tissue and stuck them to the skin on my arm with a bandaid. Within minutes I had my answer, as a red itchy welt was forming under the one with red giant mustard.

The solution? Avoidance. Even though you know what is causing the problem the allergist cannot cost-effectively manufacture a desensitizing agent. Now I wear gloves and exercise caution.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2002 at 3:16AM
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I agree that allergy tests are not that specialized. You have to do your own investigating.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2003 at 3:52AM
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This sounds like something which happened to my husband and me about 22 years ago. I know what the plant looks like but have never been able to identify it. I have only seen it once more since that fatefull day, and that was in one of Winnipeg's city parks where it grew as a weed. It is between 2 and 3' high. It is not listed in any book which I have consulted. I suspect that the plant is not native to North America or else it would be found more frequently.

Both of us had terrible burning and scars for some time. The burning stopped after a few months, and the scars disappeared in a few years. I used a wet clay poultice to draw out the poison at night and vitamin A straight from the capsule in the daytime.

The plant is definitely more dangerous than poison ivy, but the same clay poultice is effective for any poison. This one, however, did not disappear overnight as poison ivy does, and the scars looked like bad burn scars.

BTW, that is not an allergic reaction, because the plant is definitely poisonous. An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a harmless substance.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2003 at 2:00AM
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Did you solve your problem? If not, contact me, because you may need more specific directions on how to apply the wet clay. Natural vitamin A (from fish oil) squeezed right out of a capsule is also effective, but don't bother with a vitamin A cream or oil. It is far too diluted.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 8:58AM
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scryn(z6 NY)

Traute: maybe you are thinking of giant hogweed? It is very large and looks like a giant Queen anne's lace plant. Very unique. These plants are extremely poisonous. They burn the skin badly and then cause more burns, when your skin is exposed to UV from the sun. This can continue for over a year. We have some of these plants evading our fields in Rochester and surrounding areas. I read about them three years ago and just saw them in the area about 2 years ago. They are very very dangerous. I am glad I heard about them before seeing one because they really are a unique and neat plant. I would have totally gone up to it and looked closer and for sure, touched it if I didn't know better. I have seen the plants (with the giant flower) up to 4 feet high. they have another name also and I just can't remember it right now.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 9:47AM
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heres a sight that has a picture and info.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:05PM
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nancyw(7b SE VA)

I always assumed the reaction was from a plant, but this summer while on vacation in Banner Elk NC I had the worst outbreak yet. Within an hour my skin went from normal to red and blistering; still haven't figured out what it could have been but plant no longer seems likely [Grass was the only plant I was around]. My skin is permanently brown everywhere that was affected.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:45PM
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scryn(z6 NY)

That really sounds like a hogweed reaction, NancyW. Were you in the sun at the time? You can contact hogweed once and get the oils on your skin and still have problems for a year afterwards, although you haven't contacted the plant recently. That is one of the reasons it is so dangerous.
I don't believe that there is really any treatment after you contact hogweed however. It is all preventative, like wearing long sleeves when you go outside and staying out of the sun so you reduce the amount of UV light your skin is exposed to.
good luck!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 9:02AM
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wouldn't rubbing alcohol take away the oils? I remember some of that being talked about somewhere in relation to poison ivy. someone washed their hands repeatedly and then used alcohol wipes and that seemed to negate any outbreak.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 4:42PM
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nancyw(7b SE VA)

I'm sure I have never seen the hogweed. Not even sure we have it growing in the south. I hadn't been in the sun at the time of the last [and by far the worst] outbreak. We went to an evening outdoor concert and about an hour into the concert my arm erupted; red welts; the worst of them blistering. There was nothing there an hour before.
Over the last three months they have slowly faded to brown, like the other times. Nancy

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 1:57PM
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Medications can suddenly cause an allergic reaction like hives and welts, even after taking them for years. Celebrex did it to me. Not that this is the answer, but it's something to consider.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 6:10PM
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nancyw(7b SE VA)

Interesting. Celebrex is the only medication I take. Nancy

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 9:37PM
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I think so can herbs as well. ummmmmm someone correct me if i'm wrong but st johns wort leaves you more open to the photosynthetic burn thing too or something to do with sunburn.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 1:46PM
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scryn(z6 NY)

A lot of medications (and herbs) cause photosensitivity. However if you weren't in the sun..
moonwolf23, I think poinson ivy oil is an oil and therefore difficult to wash off with just soap and water, alcohol does do a slightly better job of removing oil. So maybe this is why it is better at preventing a poison ivy reaction? I know that you can completely prevent it if you wash up well, although it is difficult and you must do it quickly.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 3:52PM
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