4/15/2017 Poison Ivy ID

“Watch out for poison ivy!” We’ve all heard it at some point along the trail, but do we take it seriously? We should.  Contact with poison ivy can cause reactions ranging from a mild, short lived redness to severe blisters and swelling of the skin. The rash usually occurs within two days of contact with the plan, peaks after five days, and begins to regress after a week to ten days.

The plant typically causes an allergic reaction to human skin when we brush against it because it contains a toxic resin called urushiol, so identifying and avoiding the leaves, stems and roots of the plant are important.  You can recognize poison ivy by its trademark pointed leaves that hang from the stem in groupings of 3. The leaves are typically solid green, however they do change colors throughout the seasons. The plant produces yellow/green flowers in the spring, while the leaves can change yellow or red during the fall.

We discuss this plant with you because it has a prominent presence in Erie county, and put yourself at risk of contact the more outdoor activities you participate in.  We don’t want concern of contamination to discourage you from outdoor activities though, which is why recognition is important.  Recognizing the plant is simple and a very handy skill to be familiar with, and can prevent a lot of pain and frustration.

Next time you’re walking through your chosen park or through your own plot of land, keep an eye out for this mischievous plant and see how often you actually spot it once it’s brought to your awareness.  However if you’re already aware of the plant’s presence there are ways to take precautions.  Dressing appropriately to cover as much of your skin as possible is a good idea. If that doesn’t work and you happen to come in contact with the plant, start to wash up as soon as possible.  Rinse, lather, and repeat within an hour of the contact and you might be lucky enough to wash the urushiol off of your skin and help you avoid a rash.

As far as treatment goes the worst part of the experience is typically dealing with the severe itchiness that accompanies the rash.  There are creams you can buy locally to help alleviate some of the itching frustrations, but for the most part recovering from the contamination is simply a waiting game.  Hopefully next time you can use preventative measures to avoid the worst of the effects.  Try to keep these types of plants in mind as the weather gets more inviting!




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