If you’re going to be active this summer, be sure to keep an eye out for plants as well as insects. The three-leafed plant poison ivy can ruin any fun time outdoors as the plant can easily cause red and irritated skin. Webmd.com reports the plant can cause hives just by brushing up against the leaves. After festering, the poison can cause blisters to fill with fluid that may leak out.
According to the Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center (PIOSIC), Urushiol Oil found in poison ivy is very potent and is the most common allergy in the country. At least 50 percent of people in America can be affected by poison ivy and sensitivity to Urushiol Oil can develop at any time.
To treat the rash, Webmd.com recommends washing the infected area with water immediately after contact with the plant. Cool baths and creams can be used to alleviate the swelling and itching from poison ivy. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl can also alleviate pain.
One popular myth about poison ivy is that it’s highly contagious, however the PIOSIC said the rash can only spread by touching the plant. Itching an infected spot won’t cause it to spread on your body or to someone else. Urushiol oil can also be spread through forest fires, burning, lawnmowers and anything else that can cause it to become airborne. Being infected once does not always build immunity so people should be weary of poison ivy each time they encounter it.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a doctor should be sought if someone develops a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, if the rash doesn’t improve in a few weeks or if the rash breaks out in sensitive places.
All three sources state that prevention and avoiding the plant is the best method of protection. When going out into wooded areas, be sure to wear long sleeved shirts and pants to cut down on potential contact with the plant. Keeping your hands and clothes clean will also reduce the risk of breaking out and developing hives from poison ivy.
Rebekah Webber of Grand Blanc said she once got poison ivy on her face and forearm while she was in the eighth-grade. Initially, teachers thought she had pink eye but after visiting the doctor, she discovered it was poison ivy.
“After going home we finally realized how I got it, firewood!” Webber said. “I brought in some logs and put them by the fireplace and must have touched my face. Still to this day I don’t touch firewood!”
Jessica Billings has never been affected by poison ivy however, she discovered that susceptibility is genetic, as her 5-year-old daughter currently has her first case of poison ivy. Billings said her husband’s family is very allergic to poison ivy, a trait her daughter inherited.
How to spot, treat Poison Ivy, Poison Oak
• Poison Ivy and Poison Oak grow in a multitude of places, including the woods, fields, backyards and vacant lots. The plants also grow along fences, stonewalls, the edge of forests and sunny areas.
• Poison Ivy has three leaves where the middle leaf has a small stem while the two side leaves grow directly from the vine and do not have stems. The leaves can be bright or dark green when viewed from above. By the fall, poison ivy or oak can turn bright red or orange. The poisonous plants also have hairy stems.
• To treat poison ivy or oak, experts recommend washing the affected area thoroughly with soap. Some experts believe rubbing alcohol can be used to remove oil from exposed areas. Warm baths and water can also alleviate itching and swelling. If the reaction for the poison persists for weeks or if it is in a sensitive area, be sure to contact a medical professional right away.