Want to hike? Avoid These Plants Or You’ll Be Scratching For Days

Over Memorial Day weekend and National Trails Day next week, thousands of Southern Californians will take to the great outdoors to enjoy the sun, exercise and natural beauty – and in many case, a nasty rash.

Unusually heavy rains last winter helped many of the native plants, wildflowers and, yes, poisonous weeds along Southern California hiking trails sprout and spread their greenery “almost as if they wanted to tend the hand and shake your hand because they stick out everywhere”. said Cris Sarabia, director of conservation for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservation.

Land managers are a little behind on clearing trails, which is why you see overgrown foliage, Sarabia said.

As you prepare to hit the trails, experts urge you to take precautions with vegetation that causes skin irritations, rashes and, in some severe cases, respiratory problems.

But don’t let these plants keep you from enjoying the outdoors. Instead, research your destination before you go, said Wesley Trimble, director of communications for the American Hiking Society.

Here are some tips from outdoor enthusiasts and experts on which native plants to avoid on your walks and how to treat skin that has come into contact with a poisonous plant. They also shared resources to improve your vegetation identification skills.

Poisonous plants to avoid when hiking

There are at least two common types of poisonous plants found on trails that can cause skin irritation and, in some severe cases, respiratory problems: poison oak and dog poodle bush. There is also a less invasive threat, the stinging nettle.

poison ivy can be difficult to identify, Trimble said, because it can grow as a shrub, long vines or undergrowth.

“It likes to grow in disturbed soils, meaning areas that are trafficked, like trails, or disturbed by ecological changes,” he said.

There are several ways to search for poison ivy, starting with the old adage “Leaves of three let it be,” Trimble said. It’s a faithful representation of the plant, whose fuzzy green leaves with scalloped edges grow in clusters of three. Sometimes the plant also has berries of yellow-white or beige color.

“When people are taking breaks – if you’re going to sit along the trail, for example – really pay attention to where you’re sitting, because in a more shady area [poison oak] tends to grow more like an underbrush or overgrown with vines,” Trimble said.

If you come into contact with the plant, the Food and Drug Administration advises that you wash your skin, clothing, and gear with cool soapy water as soon as possible. You may be able to rinse off some of the vegetable oil.

How to treat it: You can treat the rash at home if you have a mild breakout on the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology Assn. advises you to go to the emergency room if you have the following symptoms, signs of a severe reaction:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • A rash around one or both eyes or your mouth, or on your genitals
  • swelling on your face, especially if one eye closes
  • Itching that gets worse or makes it impossible to sleep
  • Rashes covering most of your body
  • A fever

When a mild blister or rash begins to form on the skin, don’t scratch!
According to the federal agency, bacteria under your fingernails can enter the rash and cause infection. Relieve the itching sensation by soaking the affected skin in cold water or using a cold compress.

You can use an over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce or relieve itching. UCLA Health also recommends using a steroid cream or a bath with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal. He also indicated that your health care provider may prescribe an antihistamine that does not relieve the itch, but may help you sleep (and ignore the itch).

To aid the healing process, you can also purchase a bottle of Tecnu, a cleanser that removes poison oak oils that you’ve managed to get on your skin.

If your rash does not improve in seven to ten days, according to the dermatology association, your skin may have become infected, so you should see a board-certified dermatologist.

Poodle bush-dog, another native poisonous plant, grows after a forest or brush fire, which is why it’s also known as a “fire follower,” according to the US Forest Service.

This herb tends to give people a more severe allergic skin reaction than poison ivy, Trimble said.

It grows in a cluster of slender, spreading leaves that are often a foot long. From June to August, the plant produces a bell-shaped purple flower.

“The plant is covered in sticky hairs, which can become dislodged easily and can be transmitted to hikers who touch or brush against it,” according to the Forest Service.

The plant also has a pungent smell.

If the skin comes in contact with the plant, swelling, rash and itching may appear between 12 hours and two days.

How to treat it: As with poison oak rash, use a cold compress, apply calamine lotion, or bathe in baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to relieve itchy symptoms.

Nettle is a less common weed that appears on some trails. It grows in moist, uncultivated areas, including riverbanks, fencerows and roadsides, according to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Pest Management Program. It is a broadleaf weed that grows in colonies or large groups and has seed leaves that are round and oval with sparse stinging hairs.

Skin that comes into contact with the weed quickly develops reddish patches and itches.

How to treat it: There is no treatment plan other than the steps you can take to relieve the itching, including using a cold compress, applying calamine lotion, or bathing in baking soda. of soda or colloidal oatmeal.

poison ivy is a well-known threat in many parts of the country, but Trimble and Sarabia said it’s not widespread in Southern California. #Winner.

Know your plants before your hike

The first preventive measure to take while hiking is to wear long sleeves, long pants, long socks and closed shoes. You can also try IvyX, a product you spread on your skin to act as a barrier against poison ivy and poison ivy. It comes in the form of wipes or gel.

On the trail, avoiding poisonous plants starts with getting to know them. Sarabia suggests hikers of all skill levels learn one plant a day.

You can start your plant education journey by browsing Calscape, the California Native Plant Society’s online database that offers 150 years of knowledge about plants native to your area.

Sarabia also suggested iNaturalist, an online community where users share what they’ve learned about nature. You can record your findings, connect with experts, and create useful data for scientists and resource managers.

Part of this research is getting to know the trail you want to visit.

“For people unfamiliar with areas other than poisonous plants, there will be other ecological conditions that can present hazards on the trail,” Trimble said.

You can learn more about Southern California trails by visiting a city’s Parks and Recreation website, LA County Trails website, or Angeles National Forest website.

Another online resource is AllTrails, which includes details and reviews of your destination.

“People in reviews will sometimes say, ‘Hey, I saw a lot of poison ivy on this section of the trail,'” Trimble said. “So even if people aren’t familiar with identifying the plant, that might be a good way to be on the safe side.”

Finally, find your local nature center or outdoor group. The California Native Plant Society, for example, has 35 chapters, and each typically holds monthly in-person or online meetings with programming whose topics include local plants and hikes.

Here are more ways to connect with Southern California hiking groups and resources:

  • Become a member of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter which covers Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
  • Check out Latino Outdoors programming that focuses on promoting outdoor engagement by Latinos and other communities.
  • Reconnect with nature through Outdoor Afro’s recreational programming, which aims to connect Black people and Black communities to the natural environment.
  • Sign up for a group hike in your area with Hike Clerb, an intersectional women’s outdoor collective.
  • Browse free hiking resources from the American Hiking Society.
  • Check out the list of beginner and intermediate trails on the OC Trail Club website.
  • Check out the free basic hiking course and other programs (which range from free to paid) offered by an REI store in your area.
  • Join Black Girls Trekkin’, a non-profit organization that inspires black women to pursue outdoor adventures.
  • Check out the interactive trail map for hikers with disabilities to locate trails and get important accessibility information.
  • Join a hike with the Los Angeles Chapter of Outdoor Asian.

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