How do you know if you have poison ivy?
Facts about Poison Ivy How do you get poison ivy? From touching
it, or touching something that has touched it, like your clothes or
your dog. You normally get it from touching the leaves, but yanking
the vine out by the roots - even in winter - will give you a wicked
Using a weed eater to remove poison ivy will result in spraying
your legs with poison ivy. If you are bare-legged and get scratches
while splattered with sap from poison ivy, you may be headed to the
And there are more unusual ways to get it, like breathing smoke
from firewood burning with poison ivy on it. Which can also put
people into the hospital.
What about immunity? Some people appear to be immune, others
become immune. HOWEVER, you can gain or lose immunity, so to assume
you can't get it if you never have before is foolish. People change
as they age. I would never assume that I was immune at any time no
matter what my past experience was. What it is like to get it? At
first you get a slight itchy spot, which gets worse and worse. It
can be a a small itchy area that will annoy you, or it can cover
your whole body with giant red sores that will drive you nuts. See
the rash slide show to see the rash in real life.
The poison ivy rash, even when not huge and ugly, can be one of
the itchiest experiences a person will every have. What if you know
you've been exposed to it? Within a hour or so you should rinse
with lots of cold water - like a garden hose. Hot water will open
your pores and let the oil in. Taking shower could be a disaster
(see my father's story, "Washing made it spread." (Later, after the
oil is all absorbed or washed off, and you HAVE a big rash, hot
showers can ease the itch for a few hours.) For up to about 6 hours
washing with alcohol may still help remove the oil, but many say
that after 1/2 hour the oil has soaked in and you can't remove it.
The next day is really too late. Check with your doctor to see if
early treatment can prevent the rash before it really starts. What
can you do once the itching starts? For a serious case you MUST SEE
A DOCTOR. For less serious cases check with your local drugstore or
see the list below for remedies.
Here are a list of popular home remedies: * Take a shower in the
hottest water you can stand, for as long as you can stand - this
may ease the itch for a few hours. * If heat eases your rash, you
can also try a hair dryer, but BE CAREFUL. Don't burn yourself! *
Jewelweed is widely thought to help the rash. Mash the weed and
apply to the rash. * Spray with a deodorant containing aluminum,
which most do. How long does the rash last? Anywhere from a week to
3 weeks, depending on how bad it is and how you treat it.
Prescription remedies make it go away much faster. What are some
common remedies for the rash? These companies make two kinds of
products - creams to block the oil from getting into your skin, and
remedies once you have the rash: Buji Skin Products
Tec Labs, Makers of Tecnu
Sumactin, Rash Remedy
Zanfel, skin wash How long does the oil last? The oil from
poison ivy is extremely stable and will stay potent - essentially
forever. You can get a rash from clothing or tools that have the
oil from last summer, or even from many years back.
So if you don't remove the oil by washing, using alcohol to
dissolve it, or by just hosing off with a hard spray from a hose -
assume it will stay forever.
Read this story about a sleeping bag! Pets and Poison Ivy All of
the vets and books state clearly that no animal - other than humans
- can get a rash from poison ivy. Clearly, goats and other grazers
eat the greens, and birds eat the seeds.
However, many people do get a rash from the urushiol oil on the
fur of their pets. Which leads to the question of how to get the
oil off of the fur. I would wash the animal wearing thick rubber
gloves (not latex). After washing the animal I would wash myself
off as well, using cold water to keep the pores closed. Is it
contagious? Once you have the rash the oil has been absorbed and
you probably can't spread it to others or elsewhere on yourself. If
you get big blisters filled with liquid it is mostly water and will
not spread the rash even if they break. (Although I have viewers
who SWEAR that the fluid does cause further outbreaks.) What causes
the rash? There is an oil, called urushiol, that causes an allergic
reaction after the first sensitizing exposure. The oil is in the
leaves, vines, and roots. That's why tearing out the vine is so
dangerous - it releases lots of urushiol. Aren't there 2 types of
poison ivy? Technically there is the climbing variety
(toxicodendron radicans) and the non climbing (toxicodendron
rydbergii) or Rydberg's poison ivy. But since they interbreed, look
very similar, sometimes grow in the same places, and give you the
same rash I have ignored the difference.
In the southeastern US there is also eastern poison oak, which
is slightly different, and doesn't climb things. I think many
people confuse poison ivy and poison oak in the east, but they are
pretty similar and produce the same effect, so it doesn't worth
arguing about. Cleaning clothes exposed to the plant oil. I can
only tell you what I would do if I had clothing that I was pretty
sure had the urushiol oil on it.
1. If I could afford to, I would throw the clothes away, because
no matter how much you clean them you will tend to itch when you
wear them, just from thinking about the poison ivy.
2. If the clothing is too good to toss, I would wash it, if
possible with bleach, and I would wash it twice.
For leather shoes, I would use rags and alcohol, while wearing
thick rubber (not latex) gloves. After that I would apply oil
because the alcohol is sure to dry out the leather. Where does it
grow? Everywhere in the US and southern Canada except the far west,
deserts and at high altitude. In the west they have poison oak,
which is very similar. Both love roadsides and edges of fields. And
certainly into southern Canada and northern Mexico as well. What
are some good PI links? The best all round web source of
information and more links is the Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac
Information Center. For medical advice, try:
The American Academy of Dermatology Poison Ivy Page: A site with
advice on getting rid of poison ivy. (Put together by the
University of Oklahoma Police Dept) Good site from the Canadian
Department of Agriculture. A tutorial site with a poison ivy quiz.
A site just about Poison Oak. A site with some serious scientific
information. Neat outdoor site with a poison ivy page. About.com:
comprehensive articles about poison ivy