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Garden Encounters Often Lead to Rashes, Hives, Itching
Date:2/10/2011

THURSDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- For some people, a simple day of gardening is not without its perils.

Mere contact with a range of common plants can bring on mild to severe skin reactions, an expert warns.

"While most of the skin reactions resulting from direct contact with a hazardous plant are more of a nuisance than anything else, there are some instances where the reaction can affect the entire body and pose a potentially more serious risk," Dr. Julian J. Trevino, an associate professor of dermatology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, cautioned in a news release from the American Academy of Dermatology.

"People who are allergic to plants or have sensitive skin that is prone to eczema or atopic dermatitis may experience more severe or long-lasting effects that require medical attention," he explained.

Trevino was scheduled to discuss the issue at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting this week in New Orleans.

Troublesome plants include the so-called "stinging nettle." The plant's sharp hairs produce irritants that can provoke a usually mild hive outbreak after brushing up against it. The outbreak typically subsides within a few hours.

In addition, people susceptible to eczema or who handle food frequently can get hives from some fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, shrubs and grasses. Severe reactions can spread beyond the skin and cause dangerous swelling of the throat, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

Cacti and prickly pear plants are another concern, Trevino said. When the prickly spines pierce the skin, it can cause itching and a rash or even a staph or fungal infection if the spines are laced with bacteria or fungus.

The best known problem plants are poison ivy, poison oak and sumac. About half of the population is allergic to the sap, called "urushiol," and will get a rash following contact. But Trevino cautioned that w
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