Poison Ivy

contributed by  Health  Cabinet member, Lou Foltz
 
Ah, the beauty of spring has arrived at last!  We are all probably overjoyed that the weather is so beautiful and all of the spring colors are exploding. Along with the great weather comes getting our yards in order with cleaning up, clearing old plants and planting new things for summer.
 
Because we spend so much time outside, we all need to have a refresher on poison ivy, oak and sumac. About 85% of the population has a sensitivity to these plants. Most experience a rash after exposure to any parts of these plants, which contain an oil, urushiol.  This oil is extremely powerful and can cause a rash within 12-72 hours.  Sometimes, we have a delayed reaction even days later.
 
The symptoms begin with a blistery red rash that itches intensely. The blisters can ooze, but the liquid cannot cause any more rash.  It is NOT contagious but can be spread by animals, clothing that has absorbed the oil and even gardening tools. It can even be spread in the air, especially when burning brush.
 
How can we identify these plants?  An old saying is, “leaves of 3, let it be.”  Poison ivy and poison oak are very common in this area and can be found easily.  They are vines that indeed have 3 leaves in a cluster.  Poison sumac grows in moist areas like swamps and is not as much of a problem.
 
How do we treat the rash?  Begin by keeping the area clean and dry.  Medications such as over the counter creams and ointments that contain Hydrocortisone are helpful.  A visit to your doctor is recommended if the rash persists for more than a few weeks, if you are having difficulty breathing, or if the rash is around your eyes or private area.