More than half of people are allergic to poison ivy, a common plant found throughout North America. Because an allergic reaction to this plant can cause uncomfortable symptoms, knowing how to properly identify this common plant is recommended, especially for people who spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Below is some information people can use to properly identify and avoid poison ivy.
Why is it dangerous?
Poison ivy contains an oil known as urushiol, which causes a rash in people who are allergic to it. The rash typically consists of fluid-filled blisters that may itch and weep. To contract the rash, people must come into direct contact with the oil. The oil may be found on the plant itself, as well as on objects, people or pets that have touched the plant. Reactions may also occur among people who inhale smoke produced by the burning of the poison ivy plant.
Identifying Poison Ivy
Poison ivy plants can be found in a variety of locations, from vacant lots to deep in the woods. Poison ivy may grow as a single plant, a bush or a vine. Typically, poison ivy plants are characterized by various stems that each contain three leaves.
The leaves will be close together, and they may appear shiny. Leaves on poison ivy plants are usually bright or dark green in the spring and red or orange in autumn. If the leaf is turned over or viewed from below, the bottom will appear fuzzy and lighter in color. Poison ivy plants also produce dense clusters of berries, which are white in color and usually appear late in the summer and remain on the plant until winter.
Dealing with Poison Ivy
If you come across poison ivy in your backyard or on your next hike, avoid touching any part of the plant. If you accidently touch part of the plant, wash the oil off your skin immediately with warm water and soap. Keep in mind that not all soaps will effectively remove poison ivy oils. Special soaps are available for purchase, or you can simply use dish detergent. If you develop a rash, you can treat the symptoms with topical steroids and anti-itch creams. In severe cases, oral steroids may be necessary. Regardless of the severity of your reaction, you should not scratch the rash, as this can lead to skin damage and infection.
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