By G. Bosley  a.k.a. “groundhog”

Leaves of 3…Leave it be.  Poison Ivy is a plant that many fear.  The sap of the poison ivy plant contains the oil urushiol which causes an allergic reaction on the skin of many people.  The oil will penetrate the skin within minutes of contact but the symptoms of  intense itching and redness with swelling to the exposed skin may not appear for 12 to 72 hours.  The rash develops as small red bumps within 3 days of  contact.  Avoid scratching these itchy blisters.  The rash can last for up to 3 weeks.

Poison Ivy is not contagious.  Direct contact with the oil is the only cause of poison ivy rash.  However, the urushiol oil is very persistent and can remain toxic on tools, shoes and clothing for up to 5 years.  If you happen to brush by the plant your shoes or clothing or tools may contact the oil of the plant and later you may contact the oil from that surface.  Similarly if your dog wanders through a patch of Poison Ivy their fur may contact the oil and then you make contact with the oil when you rub their belly.  Dogs are not affected by the oil.  Exposure to an amount of oil smaller than a grain of salt can cause an allergic reaction.  All parts of the plant contain the oil.

Poison Ivy grows as a single stem woody shrub or vine with leaves that grow in groups of three.  In the early spring the newly developing leaves are reddish in colour, turning shiny green in the summer and bright red in the fall.  Poison Ivy develops small yellow or green flowers and white berries.

If you have become exposed to the oil of Poison Ivy it is very important to remove the oil from your skin as quickly as possible.  Wash the area as quickly as possible with rubbing alcohol and rinse with lots of water, then a thorough washing with strong soapy water. A rash may not develop if the oil is removed within 10 minutes of exposure.

  • Cool baths with oatmeal or baking soda will help soothe the irritated skin.
  • Calamine lotion will relieve some of the itch.
  • Apple cider vinegar dabbed on the affected area throughout the day will help neutralize the effects of the oil.  Vinegar will sting.
  • Make an oatmeal paste and rub on the rash.
  • Aloe Vera gel will provide some relief from the itching and burning, help reduce inflammation, and protect the skin from infection.
  • Black tea bags, soaked in water and then cooled can be soothing.
  • There are many over the counter creams which will help relieve the symptoms.

Reaction to contact with Poison Ivy varies with each individual.  Some people are more sensitive than others, some people may be immune to the allergen.  Repeated exposure can develop a greater sensitivity to the allergen.

Seek medical attention if the following symptoms occur:

  • The rash is causing sleeplessness or extreme discomfort
  • The rash is near the mouth, genitals or eyes
  • The rash is affecting the entire body
  • There is a cloudy appearance to the weeping fluids from the blisters
  • There is fever
  • There is significant swelling

Learn to identify Poison Ivy and avoid contact with all parts.  Do not burn Poison Ivy to eradicate, the oil remains in the smoke and can be inhaled causing serious respiratory problems.

I welcome your comments.  I am very pleased that so many are finding this site very helpful.  If you are having problems in your garden let me know, perhaps I can help.

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