Watch Out For That Poison Ivy

Watch Out For That Poison Ivy

Be aware of what poison ivy looks like and watch out for it while exploring outdoors. On our last two Appalachian Trail trips the trails were loaded with it on sections. We identified it and alerted the ladies to stay in the center of the trail and watch out for it.

The old saying “Leaves of three, leave it be” is a pretty good rule for identifying poison ivy. The plants leaf shape can vary and grow as a shrub or up a tree but the leaf arrangement doesn’t change. Look for stems with one larger leaf and two slightly smaller leaves on each side of it. The leaves will be reddish brown in the spring and turn green in the summer. They will turn yellow or orange in the fall before dropping off.

There is no cure for a poison ivy allergic reaction so prevention is the key. Wearing long pants and long sleeves will help. They also make a poison ivy wash that can be used if you have touched the plant. The urushiol that comes off the plant begins to bind to human skin in as little as ten minutes. Once it binds, you can’t wash it off. With that said, you should still wash with soap and water once you get home as you will still be able to get some of the chemicals off of your skin that remains on your clothing. Wash your clothes immediately as the oils on your clothes can produce a reaction weeks after.

Once you notice an allergic reaction it’s too late to stop the rash from happening. You now will have to focus on treating the symptoms. You can use over the counter corticosteroid cream, or an antihistamine to manage the itch. If that doesn’t help, try an oatmeal bath as it helps some sooth the skin.

A small amount of people are not allergic to urushiol and can be around it with little to no consequence. The rest will notice some kind of reaction. Roughly 25% of those people will suffer a severe reaction to the plant.

So, know what it looks like, avoid it, and if you do come in contact wash off immediately.