Summer Skin Care: Preventing Poison Ivy
Summertime brings wonderful opportunities to get out and enjoy nature, doing everything from gardening to camping. While you’re enjoying these activities, you and your family will also be at risk of exposure to Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as poison ivy, in many parts of the country. The poison ivy plant is native east of the Rocky Mountains and throughout much of southern Canada, and grows in a wide variety of environments.
All parts of the poison ivy plant contain urushiol, an oily resin which can cause a skin rash, blisters and itching. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 85% of the population will develop allergic symptoms when they get urushiol on their skin.
How You Get Poison Ivy
You may come in contact with urushiol from poison ivy in a variety of ways, in addition to directly touching the leaves, stem, berries or roots of the plant. Urushiol can stick to almost any surface. Touching objects which have been contaminated – such as shoes, gardening tools or even a pet – can get the oil on your hands, allowing it to be spread to other parts of the body. Burning poison ivy plants releases particles of oil into the air, which can land on the skin. It’s important to note that urushiol can remain potent for a long period of time, even years.
‘Leaves of Three, Let Them Be’
Learning the characteristics of the poison ivy plant is the most effective way to avoid its effects.
- “Leaves of three, let them be” is an old adage that alludes to the leaf pattern of the poison ivy plant. Poison ivy typically has three broad green leaves with notched edges on one stem.
- The plant can grow as a low shrub or a vine on the north side of trees. It prefers moist locations, but can tolerate drier soil.
- Poison ivy produces clusters of whitish berries on the stems. The leaves turn bright red in the autumn.
Get Treated for Poison Ivy at RediClinic
A poison ivy rash usually lasts one to three weeks. If your rash is widespread or you cannot tolerate the symptoms, visit a RediClinic walk-in clinic for relief. Our board-certified clinicians can provide prescription and over-the-counter medications to treat the rash and relieve the itch.