Skin Irritations Caused by Plants for Trainers and Supervisors

Tailgate Safety Training for Landscaping and Horticultural Services
AEX-892.2.69
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
06/08/2018
Agricultural Safety and Health Program

Objective: Identify plants that can cause skin irritations and ways to avoid skin irritations.

Trainer’s Note

Many plants can cause skin irritations, not just poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. For this module:

  • Review the information below on types of skin irritations and ways to avoid them.
  • Ask workers to describe skin irritations they have experienced.
  • Review the important points.
  • Have workers take the True/False quiz to check their learning.

    Background

    Many plants can cause skin irritations in humans. Some workers may be more sensitive to certain plants than other workers. Generally, there are five categories—poison plants, allergenic plants (and plant parts), skin irritant plants, stinging plants, and thorn plants.

    • Poison plants include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. They all contain a toxin called urishiol. This toxin is present in the sap of the plant. Touching this type of plant can cause skin rashes and blisters. See the Tailgate Safety Training module Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac for more detail.
    • Allergenic plants (and plant parts) include, among others, orchids, tulip bulbs, chrysanthemums, and dahlias. They cause allergic reactions in some people. The pollen in these plants can cause hay fever or asthma.
    • Skin irritant plants include, among others, poinsettias, penciltrees, daffodils, hyacinths, and buttercups. These plants can cause skin irritations.
    • Stinging plants have nettles. Touching a nettle can cause a toxic reaction. However, the reaction has no lasting effect.
    • Thorn plants include, among others, roses, blackberry and raspberry bushes, and black locust and honey locust trees. Infection can result from an embedded thorn. A scratch can also cause an infection especially if dirt gets into the scratch. See the Tailgate Safety Training module Thorn Bushes for more detail.

    How to Avoid Skin Irritations

    • If you handle plants, wear gloves, a long-sleeve shirt, and long pants. Wear work shoes or boots. Do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals.
    • Never burn plants that may be toxic. Toxins can be present in the smoke.
    • Learn what problem plants grow in your area and how to identify them.
    • If you touch a poisonous plant, obtain treatment immediately. See the Tailgate Safety Training module Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, and Poison Oak for more detail.
    • Never eat wild berries or plant leaves.
    • After handling plants, always wash your hands and other exposed skin before eating, drinking, smoking, or going to the bathroom.
    • Wash your clothes separately in hot water. Clean your shoes with rubbing alcohol and water.
    • If you have a severe reaction to a plant, such as a rash or blisters, see a doctor.

    Review These Important Points

    • Learn to recognize what problem plants look like, such as dahlias, hyacinths, daffodils, and blackberry bushes.
    • Wear proper clothing to lessen the chance of plants touching your skin.
    • Always wash your clothing separately in hot water.
    • Never eat wild berries or plant leaves.
    • Never burn plants that may be toxic. Toxins can be present in the smoke.
    • Obtain treatment immediately if you develop a rash or blisters.

    About These Modules
    The author team for the training modules in the landscape and horticultural tailgate training series includes Dee Jepsen, Program Director, Agricultural Safety and Health, Ohio State University Extension; Michael Wonacott, Research Specialist, Vocational Education; Peter Ling, Greenhouse Specialist; and Thomas Bean, Agricultural Safety Specialist. Modules were developed with funding from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant Number 46E3-HT09.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Department of Labor.


    Answer Key

    1. F

    2. T

    3. T

    4. F

    5. F

     

    Quiz: Skin Irritations Caused by Plants

     

    Name____________________________________

    True or False?

    1. Wash your shoes separately in hot water after handling plants.     T      F

    2. Burning plants can release harmful toxins into the air.     T      F

    3. After handling plants, always wash your hands and other exposed skin before eating, drinking, smoking, or going to the bathroom.     T      F

    4. Eating wild berries is okay if they look ripe.     T      F

    5. Wear short-sleeved shirts so you can spot skin reactions easily.     T      F