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Poison Ivy Anyone?

Poison Ivy; one of humans' biggest nemeses. This is the most common toxic plant known to man.
Approximately 90% of the population has an allergic sensitivity to it whether it is slight or severe.
There are very few people who haven't experienced the wrath of this deviant plant; those who have
are all too willing to head the warnings. The best way to avoid being affected is to avoid it at all costs.

Welcome to Poison Ivy 101. This is the lesson that will teach you what it looks like, what it actually
does, how it works and what to do if you happen to come into contact with it by accident. Buckle up
and pay attention because this could save you a lot of discomfort...you'll thank me for this later.

It is actually the sap the plant produces that evokes such a violent reaction. Some refer to this sap as oil;
it doesn't matter what you call it, it can still wreak havoc. Even up to five years, the oil can still be viable
if not properly disposed of. This oil is called URUSHIOL. It only takes one billionth of a gram to evoke
itching and blisters; this means that the amount of oil on the head of a pin can infect 500 people that are
considered very sensitive. Smoke caused by burning poison ivy can carry the oil and cause irritation to
100% of the body, including the lungs if the smoke is inhaled. This oil is in every part of the plant; the
stems, leaves,flowers, berries and roots. Although the allergic reactions do not affect everyone, you can
develop a sensitivity at any stage throughout your life. Also there are the few people that are so allergic
that their eyes will swell shut and blisters will erupt... this is considered an EMERGANCY and should be
taken to hospital immediately! This is a rare occurrence but should be dully noted; just in case.

So now that I have your attention, let us talk about how to identify it and know what we are dealing with:

POISON IVY: Toxicodendron radicans

  • Clusters of 3 shiny dark green leaves with irregular edges.
  • A perennial woody vine that can spread by seed or by creeping rootstocks.
  • White blossoms in early-mid spring.
  • Leaves turn bright red in fall.
  • White berries persist through winter.
  • Most common east of Rockies= HERE!
  • Can be in full sun to full shade...anywhere in fact.

First time sufferers may not see results right away; it may take anywhere from seven to ten days before
any symptoms start showing. The reactions will show faster the more frequently you are exposed and
symptoms can also intensify. What happens is that your skin reacts to the oil which causes the blood
vessels to develop gaps that leak fluids. This is where the oozing comes in. The skin will blister and fill
with fluid. It is not recommended to pick, scratch or deliberately open blisters to relieve the fluid; this
could cause infection which in turn will slow the healing time. If popping the blisters is a must than
please have a doctor do it. Contrary to popular belief, Urushiol will not spread if rash or blisters are
scratched; it will only spread if there is oil remaining on your hands from not being thoroughly washed.

Once it is discovered that contact has been made with this plant, you must take action right away. If
possible, wash skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and then rinse thoroughly with water within 15
minutes of contact. Please be aware that if you remain in the sun after washing with rubbing alcohol
you are more at risk to burn. Do not use a washcloth because this will spread the urushiol. Wash
anything else that may have also come in contact such as: dog, cat, clothes,sports equipment, shoes
and bags. This will decrease further reactions. Then it is the wait game for the damage to surface.
Be armed with calamine lotion to help neutralize the oil. As it dries it will soak up any fluids. Sounds
great huh? Poison Oak and Sumac are from the same family and also produce Urushiol, therefore,
the reaction and treatments are similar. If there is any advice to listen to and live by it is the age old
saying,

"LEAVES OF THREE, LEAVE THEM BE!" Trust me it works.

Poison Oak:
Toxicodendron diversilobum

Poison Sumac:
Toxicodendron vernix

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