May 19, 2019

MARTINO: Poison ivy is prevalent in summer

July 20, 2014

MARTINO: Poison ivy is prevalent in summer

It might be pretty, but don’t touch

Kokomo Tribune

“Looks like you got into some poison ivy again,” I said to my mother last week. It was easy to tell as a red rash covered her arms and her face was painfully swollen. She is one of those people who loves being outdoors yet highly allergic to the common plant. Sometimes I believe she can get the rash by simply looking at the noxious weed.

Dermatologists estimate about 10 percent of the population has no allergic reaction to poison ivy. That means for the other 90 percent, a brush with the viney shrub can have miserable consequences.

With summer kicking into high gear, poison ivy is lush and plentiful. The weed is a master of disguise and can grow as a shrub, vine or common looking ground cover. Leaves can be shiny or dull with edges smooth or notched.

So how can it be properly recognized? The phrases of “leaves of three, let it be,” and “berries of white, take flight,” are good rules of thumb. Whether hiking in the woods, gardening or even playing in the backyard, it is important to be aware of plants with three leaflets.

Poison ivy tops the list of plants to avoid because it is the most common, growing almost everywhere. It contains urushiol, an oily resin that binds to the skin on contact, resulting in a reaction characterized by an itchy, burning rash that can also lead to blistering of the skin. The rash-causing sap is a clear liquid found in the plants’ leaves, roots and everywhere in between.

Urushiol is extremely potent and only one nanogram (one billionth of a gram) is all it takes to cause a reaction. Although now is peak growing season for poison ivy, it is potent year round. Even worse, urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so even handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects, such as clothing, gardening tools or hunting and fishing equipment will cause a rash when it comes into contact with human skin. Pets can be another transporter of the oily resin.

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MARTINO: Poison ivy is prevalent in summer

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