The State of California pays workmen's compensation for outbreaks caused by it; almost 90% of the population is sensitive to it. What common plant could cause so much misery? Poison ivy!
Most people have suffered an outbreak of the rash in their lifetime. And if it seems that you or someone in your family has had more frequent bouts of the itchy skin rash, it could be because poison ivy has become more prevasive in our everyday environment. The plant is thriving because of the increase in carbon dioxide in the air. Poison ivy can be found growing up the trunks of trees, as well as alongside hiking and biking trails. It is in our backyards and alleys and in our flower beds.
The whole problem with this plant is urushiol oil. This oil is released when the plant is cut, crushed, or burned. Research has shown that this oil can remain active on clothes, gloves and tools for as long as five years!
Poison Ivy can look lovely with reddish-brown leaves on new growth in the spring and dying leaves in the fall. But the plant remains toxic, even in winter, when its leaves have fallen off.
For many years, the medical profession has been trying to find something to stop the outbreaks caused by poison ivy. At this time, the only preventative recommended by doctors is a product marketed under the name of Ivy Block. It is a clay-based cream that is spread on the skin before exposure. It will block the oil from being absorbed by the skin.
Caution should always be exercised when in the vicinity of poison ivy. You or your dog brushing up against the leaves could spread it to any exposed skin. If you have to work in or around poison ivy, cover your body with as much clothing as possible and try not to release the oil into the air by using a weedeater or mower.
If you have been exposed, immediately wash the skin liberally with cold water and lots of soap. The goal is to scrub off as much of the oil as possible, before it soaks into the skin. Do not use hot water - this will open the skin pores and make the outbreak worsen. One product that can be effective is Poison Ivy Soap, made by Burt's Bees. Check it out at www.burtsbees.com. Be aware that an outbreak could occur within half an hour but may not appear until the next day or two after exposure. A severe skin rash can also leave behind scarring on the skin.
Over-the-counter drugs such as Benadryl or anti-itch lotion may subdue the itching in most mild cases, but for severe cases you should immediately visit a doctor. Doctors can prescribe stronger medications such as steroids. Severe cases may require hospitalization.
Getting rid of the poison ivy on your property may be a daunting task. Even some organic gardeners are resorting to using RoundUp to get rid of the noxious weed. If you have a large enough lot, you might check out another option - goats! To learn more about how to eradicate poison ivy from your landscape, check out www.poisonivy.org,