You should know this: Avoiding poison ivy


poison ivySummer: A time to enjoy the outdoors. Yet for all the fun hiking, fishing, and barbecuing are, being outdoors can have its drawbacks… like poison ivy!

Here are some ways to avoid the painful plant:

Protect yourself

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves.
    • Wash exposed clothing separately in hot water with detergent.
  • Barrier skin creams, such as lotion containing bentoquatum, may offer some protection.
  • After use, clean tools with rubbing alcohol or soap and lots of water. Urushiol (the sap oil in poison ivy that causes pain and itching) can remain active on the surface of objects for up to 5 years.
    • Wear disposable gloves during this process.
  • Do not burn plants or brush piles that may contain poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
    • Inhaling smoke from burning plants can cause severe allergic respiratory problems.

“Leaves of three, leave it be!” How to recognize poison ivyivy

  • Eastern poison ivy is typically a hairy, ropelike vine with three shiny green (or red in the fall) leaves budding from one small stem.
  • Western poison ivy is typically a low shrub with three leaves that does not form a climbing vine.
  • May have yellow or green flowers and white to green-yellow or amber berries.

So, the poison ivy got the best of you. Here’s how to relieve your pain:

If you are exposed to a poisonous plant:

  • Immediately rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, poison plant wash, or degreasing soap (such as dishwashing soap) or detergent, and lots of water.
    • Rinse frequently so that wash solutions do not dry on the skin and further spread the urushiol.
  • Scrub under nails with a brush.
  • Apply wet compresses, calamine lotion, or hydrocortisone cream to the skin to reduce itching and blistering.
    • Oatmeal baths may relieve itching.
  • An antihistamine (like Benadryl) may help relieve itching.
    • NOTE: Drowsiness may occur.
  • In severe cases or if the rash is on the face or genitals, seek professional medical attention.
  • Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room if you have a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing, or have had a severe reaction in the past. It’s important to remember that while poison ivy affects most people with a mild rash, there are cases of extreme allergic reactions. Better to be safe than sorry.