Perils of Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy can cause a painful allergic rash that takes the form of small raised blisters on the skin. An oily residue or sap called urushiol can be found in the leaves, stems and roots of the poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac plant. This oil can cause the allergic contact dermatitis. It is very sticky and easily adheres to skin, clothing, equipment, or tools.

Poison Ivy rash is not contagious since the blister fluid does not contain urushiol. Contact can occur if you have touched another person’s clothing or skin that had urushiol on them. While pets are not sensitive to poison ivy, they may brush up against one of these plants where the oil adheres to their fur and they transfer it to you upon contact. Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly to prevent contact.

The best means of protection is learning to identify the plant. It is characterized by having three leaves and grows in a vine formation. It is difficult to kill since it has a woody textured stem causing limited damage from normal herbicides . A brush killer can control and kill the plant but even a dead plant contains urushiol and can cause a rash. The best rash prevention is to wear protective clothing when outside or in areas where poison ivy is likely to be. These plants are poisonous year-round and can cause a rash even in the winter.

Depending on the severity of the rash, some common home remedies can be used. The main consideration is to remove the oil from the skin as quickly as possible with rubbing alcohol or dishwashing liquid that contains a degreasing agent. Shower or bathe thoroughly and wash the skin with warm soap and water. Resist the urge to scratch which could lead to infection and use a good topical treatment of hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion.