Poison plant allergies

What are poison plant allergies?

Poison plant allergies go by a variety of names, inlcuding Toxicodendron dermatitis, Rhus dermatitis, and urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. These are allergies to oil urushiol, which is produced in many plants, for example, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac (these plants are Toxicodendron plants, giving the condition its name). Urushiol can also be found in in mango trees, Burmese or Japanese lacquer trees, India marking nut tree, Rengas tree, and the shell of a cashew nut (these plants are Anacardiceae plants). A common sign is a skin rash or skin blistering. More than 90 % of the population are thought to be allergic to urushiol oils.

Unlike true allergies, which cause symptoms when IgE binds to an allergen and stimulates mast cells to release histamines, the signs and symptoms of dermatitis such as poison plant allergies are created differently. Urushiol changes the proteins on the surfaces of cells in the skin (and other chemicals derived from urushiol can also be present on the cell surfaces), and white blood cells no longer recognise these skin cells as part of the body. As a result, white blood cells (particularly T lymphocytes) attack the skin cells.

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