|RHINEBECK, N.Y. -- The first days of autumn are upon us a time of leaf peeping, apple picking, pumpkin carving, and brisk walks. For most Americans, it also means fall yard pickup and along with it, an increased exposure to poison ivy. According to a report published in Weed Science, research indicates that poison ivy has grown much more aggressive since the 1950s, with leaf size and oil content measurably increased. This is bad news if you are one of the more than 350,000 people who are stricken by poison ivy annually. |
Poison ivy tops the list of plants to avoid because it contains urushiol, an oily resin that binds to the skin on contact and may result in a hypersensitivity reaction characterized by itching, burning and skin eruptions. This rash-causing poison ivy sap is a clear liquid found in the plant's leaves and the roots, which many people develop an allergy to over time.
Urushiol oil remains active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects such as gardening tools, an article of clothing, or even a pet can cause the rash when it comes in contact with human skin. If poison ivy is eaten, the mucus lining of the mouth and digestive tract can be damaged. And if poison ivy is burned and the smoke inhaled, a rash may appear in the lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and respiratory difficulty that may become life-threatening.
- Avoiding contact with the plant is, of course, the best prevention. Go on an expedition, wearing long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, boots, and gloves to minimize exposure. Tour your yard, the playground, the route your children walk to school, a campsite you're visiting, and any other outdoor areas you frequent. When you spot poison ivy, show it to your kids and instruct them to stay away from it. If you have a large amount growing in your yard, consult with a professional landscaper for removal.
- Prior to any outdoor activity, apply odorless, greaseless Topricin Pain Relief and Healing cream to any exposed areas of your body, including face, neck, hands, arms, etc. This will form a protective barrier making it more difficult for the urushiol oil to bond with your skin. Topricin contains natural medicines that also antidote and neutralize the adverse affect of urushiol oil. As an added plus, Topricin is the gardener's favorite for relieving all those aches and pains from doing yard work.
- Urushiol oil is extremely stable and will stay potent for years which means you can get a rash from clothing or tools that got oil on them many seasons ago. After exposure to poison ivy, put on gloves and wipe everything you had with you and on you with rubbing alcohol and water, including shoes, tools, and clothing. Then wash clothes at least twice before wearing (if possible using bleach), hose off garden tools well, and apply leather moisturizer on footwear to prevent them from drying out.
- Pets seem to be immune from getting poison ivy, but many people do get a rash from the residual urushiol oil on their fur. Therefore it's a good idea to bathe your dog or cat wearing thick rubber gloves, not latex. After washing the pet, wash yourself using cold water to keep pores closed. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions.
- Urushiol binds to skin proteins and begins to penetrate within 15 minutes of contact. If treated before that time, a reaction may be prevented. First, wash exposed site with cold water hot water will open your pores, allowing the oil in. Follow this by bathing it in milk, which helps to get between oil and skin. Dry off well and then apply Topricin, which will help neutralize the effect of any remaining urushiol oil left on your skin.
- Wherever poison ivy grows, there is usually a plant known as jewelweed growing close by especially in moister, shadier areas. Herbalists and Native Americans have used jewelweed for centuries to treat and speed the healing of poison ivy as it seems to be a natural remedy. When you are in the field and may have been exposed to poison ivy, pick jewelweed, slice the stem, and rub its juice on your skin to ease irritation and help prevent a breakout.
- Some companies and herbalists offer poison ivy treatment soaps that contain jewelweed and other soothing natural ingredients, such as pine tar. Soaps are available from Poison Ivy Soap Company, Burt's Bees, or search online for sources.
- For severe outbreaks, see your doctor right away.