October 24, 2014

View as List 11 Pointers on Poison Ivy

  • 11 Pointers on Poison Ivy

    Poison ivy, oak and sumac grow almost exclusively in North America (lucky us!), but not in Hawaii or Alaska. The rash they cause is an immune reaction to an oil called urushiol that occurs in their sap. Not all people are sensitive to it, but most are. And you may not start reacting until you've been exposed a few times. Never count on being immune.

  • 1

    Know How It's Changed

    According to recent research, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—due to climate change—is making poison ivy plants grow bigger and produce an even more potent form of urushiol.

  • 2

    Use Barrier Creams

    Barrier creams such as Ivy Block can prevent urushiol from getting on your skin. As for products that are supposed to help remove the oil soon after exposure, there’s less evidence that they’re effective.

  • 3

    Don't Scratch

    That may sound obvious, but it’s not for the reason you may think. Scratching the rash won’t cause it to spread, even if you break the blisters. The main reason you shouldn’t scratch? It can lead to infection.

  • 4

    Use Soap and Water

    You can prevent a rashy reaction after exposure if you act quickly enough. Here's how: Wash the exposed areas with soap and lots of cool or lukewarm water, within five to 10 minutes, if possible.

  • 5

    And Wash Your Clothes, Too

    Urushiol can survive on clothes, shoes, golf clubs and garden tools for months, even years, and still cause a reaction. Wear clean gloves when removing clothing and shoes you think may contain the oil. Wash your clothes in a strong detergent and wipe off your shoes.

  • 6

    Keep Your Hands Off Your Face

    If there’s any chance you have urushiol oil on your hands, be extra careful when you’re undressing. And it goes without saying that it's important to take particular care not to touch your face or genitals.

  • 7

    Know This: The Rash Isn't Catching

    No matter what you may have heard, you can’t spread a poison ivy rash once your skin has already started to react. The rash can’t be transmitted from person to person. By the time it appears, the urushiol is gone.

  • 8

    Consider Bathing Your Pets

    Even though pets don’t react to urushiol, they can carry it on their fur and spread it to people. If you think your pet has been running around in poison ivy or even just rubbed against it, give him or her a bath. And don’t forget to wear gloves.

  • 9

    Be Wary of the Entire Plant

    It’s a common mistake to think that you only have to worry about not touching the leaves of a poison ivy plant. Actually, all parts of the plant can cause the rash, even if the plant is dead. So, if you want to tear out plants, wear heavy protective gloves and clothing when uprooting them.

  • 10

    Don't Burn Them

    If you're considering burning poison ivy plants in order to avoid contact with them, reconsider the idea. Burning these plants can vaporize urushiol which, if inhaled, can cause severe lung damage.

  • 11

    Know the Enemy

    Perhaps the smartest strategy is to learn to recognize the leaves and berries of these plants if they’re common in your area. Poison ivy and oak have the distinctive “leaves of three.” And if you know they’re around, wear protective clothing when out in the woods or working in the yard.