Our exploration today covers a really obnoxious plant. It’s native to Asia and North America, excluding Hawaii and Alaska. It’s resin can leave you with a nasty, red rash that blisters and itches like crazy.
Have it narrowed down? A few poisonous plants to choose from, but today we discover the despicable world of poison ivy!
This nasty ivy grows as a shrub or on a vine. It has a signature, three leaf display, at the end of each stem. The triple leaf design makes them distinguishable from other plants. The leaves appear smooth and glossy, due to an oily resin coating, known as urushiol.
Urushiol is the element that creates the rash. It’s found in similar plants like poison oak and poison sumac. If you come in contact with the resin, immediately wash the area with lukewarm water and soap. The resin will linger and spread until removal. Rubbing alcohol does the trick too. The quicker the oil is removed, the milder your symptoms. Vice versa, the longer it sits on the skin, the deeper it will soak in.
There is currently no cure for poison ivy. Effects can only be minimized with proper treatment. Rashes can last for weeks and can be extremely uncomfortable.
As children, most of us can recount playing outside and having a rendezvous with PI. For me, I also contracted it playing the game manhunt. A game designed to run around a neighborhood at night. Often times the results were red marks and itches the next morning.
Some helpful tips to prevent yourself from falling victim to this ruthless vegetation.
1) Vigilance – Remember what poison ivy looks like and keep an eye out for it. If you come in contact with it, the quicker you wash it off, the better.
2) Attire – When working in unknown areas, wear long sleeves and pants. Tuck your pant legs into your boots, if possible. Wear rubber gloves or something with an impermeable surface.
3) Wash – Clean your pets and wash your garden tools. Both can unknowingly rub or roll in poison ivy. Resin can be easily transferred from the fur of a dog or the shaft of your shovel, to your hand.
Poison ivy can be tricky to locate, it has the ability to grow in many different places. Often times it can be seen climbing up trees or telephone poles.
If you’re unlucky enough to stumble through a patch, here are a few tips to help sooth your itches.
- Use chilled water, create a compress. Press lightly against your skin and let sit.
- If the compress isn’t enough, try soaking the whole affected area in cool water.
- Do your best to resist the urge of a soothing scratch. Scratching sores will only prolong the healing process.
- Try an over-the-counter topical. Calamine lotion works well. This dries out blisters and allows that healing process to begin.
- In more serious cases, a hydrocortisone cream can be applied until itching has subsided.
I’ll share with you a home made, top-secret concoction, that soothes PI rashes. Gather up some sweet fern, it usually grows by the side of the road. Put the leaves in a pot with water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Take out the leaves and let it cool. You can directly apply the potion as often as needed. Careful, it will stain your clothes brown. When done, freeze the remainder into ice cubes for the next time you fall victim. The ice makes it extra soothing, the second time around.
Per usual, we will end with a couple fun facts, or in the case of poison ivy, “annoying” facts.
Never burn poison ivy. The chemical agents from urushiol will go airborne. It can cause extreme discomfort in the throat and lungs if you breath it in.
Goats are an excellent way to rid this nuisance plant. The urushiol has no effects on goats whatsoever. They are often rented to clear parks and fields, projects that landscapers simply wouldn’t touch. If a person did undertake the project, they would charge up the wazoo! Goats, much cheaper, it’s just food for them.
The resin can be active for up to 5 years. Long after the plant has died off, the resin retains its capabilities.