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January 21, 2018

Gear We Love: Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser

Gear We Love: Tecnu Poison Ivy Relief

By Dougald MacDonald

Here’s how allergic to poison ivy I am: When I was a kid, I once caught poison ivy in the middle of winter, even though there was a foot of snow on the ground. It was so bad I had to go to the doctor to treat the oozing blisters that threatened to seal my eyes. He said, “It looks like poison ivy…but it can’t be. It’s the middle of winter.”

I still get PI frequently, even in winter. Recently, I caught it twice in one month, from the very same bush. (I’m a slow learner.) I was frequenting a good sunny crag near home, and the best warm-up started with a short finger crack in which the best jam was partially blocked by a small, twiggy bush with white berries. Twice that winter I buried my hand in that bush as I cranked the opening moves. Twice that winter I suffered PI’s itchy wrath. At least now I know what poison ivy looks like when the leaves are gone.

Last weekend I was climbing at a remote crag in Wyoming. Nearly half of the 2.5-mile approach was infested with poison ivy. The leaves are pretty in the fall—all glowing red and yellow—and the oil that blisters your skin is said to be less prevalent in late season. But then again, I’m the guy who gets it in winter. The PI on this approach is so notorious that locals wear gaiters or rain pants, and they carry soap to scrub themselves clean when they get to the cliff. I figured I was doomed.

Fortunately, Andy Burr, Climbing’s senior contributing photographer, was also on this trip. “Tecnu,” he intoned with Graduate-like simplicity. “You get it at Walgreen’s. I keep a jug of it in the shower and scrub with it anytime I suspect poison ivy.”

After wading through those waving fields of PI on the way out from the cliff, I drove straight to the first Walgreen’s I could find, continued home to Colorado, and jumped in the shower. Now it’s four days later and despite a few suspicious bumps and itches earlier in the week, I seem to be PI-free.

Now, I can’t be certain that Tecnu made the difference. But Burr swears by the stuff, and he says he’s just as PI prone as I am. (And, as a professional climbing photographer, he’s constantly wallowing into poison ivy.) I’m a believer.

Tecnu is supposed to work best if you rub it onto dry skin that’s been in contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac within eight hours of exposure, and then rinse it off. But it also can clean your skin of urushiol oil—the nasty stuff in rash-causing plants—after some damage has been done, minimizing the scale and duration of the rash. You can use it to clean packs, clothes, and even pets that come in contact with poison ivy, but I’d be too cautious to wash ropes, harnesses, or other life-safety gear with it.

I’ve had good results with Zanfel (zanfel.com) as well, and it might be the best stuff to use once a rash has flared up. But Zanfel costs about 40 bucks for a 1-ounce tube. I bought a 12-ounce tub of Tecnu (teclabsinc.com) for around $12.

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: “Thanks, Burr!”

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Gear We Love: Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser

Poison Parsnip: Toxic And Invasive

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Poison Parsnip: Toxic And Invasive

Poison Parsnip

Poison Parsnip plants are toxic and invasive. They are also growing wild across the nation. The weeds are native to Asia and Europe. However, they are now common in nearly every US state.

Wild parsnip plants are usually found in areas where other common weeds thrive, including backyards. They are an invasive species that can spread rapidly and wipe out other plant species in the area. Even worse, the plant oils can cause health concerns.

As reported by The Poison Garden, poison parsnip can cause a blistering skin rash, similar to those caused by poison ivy. However, the rash produced by wild parsnip is usually more severe. The symptoms generally disappear after a few weeks, but may discolor the skin for months.

The plants share their name with edible parsnips, which are grown for food. Unlike the edible variety, wild parsnips should be avoided.

Wild parsnip plants can rapidly spread, taking over yards and flower beds. However, they can be eliminated from the yard through diligent care. As reported by FDL Reporter, the poison parsnips can be eliminated with herbicide application in the fall or spring.

Those who wish to avoid chemicals can keep the weeds cut at ground level or mowed. Gloves should always be worn when handling the plants to avoid an adverse reaction.

As discussed by the Vermont Department of Health, wild parsnips are green plants that produce tiny yellow flowers. They are similar in appearance to Queen Anne’s Lace.

They are closely related to carrots, and produce similar sized roots. The flowers do not appear until their second year of growth. Mature plants can reach up to four feet in height.

The health department suggests thoroughly washing with soap and water if skin comes into contact with the plants. As sunlight may trigger a reaction, avoiding sunlight for 48 hours may decrease the risk. If blisters form a doctor should be contacted.

Poison Parsnip

Clothes that come into contact with the plants should also be thoroughly washed as the oils may linger.

Poison parsnip can be toxic and is certainly invasive. However, with care, they can be avoided and eliminated, reducing the risks.

[Image via Wikimedia]


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Poison Parsnip: Toxic And Invasive

Poison Ivy An old enemy lies in wait for the unsuspecting

Poison ivy is out in full force, and will be hanging around until a hard frost sends it away.

“Every five years or so, I get poison ivy,” said gardening expert Margaret Hagen of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “It usually takes me four to six weeks to get rid of it. It’s awful, so I try hard not to get it.”

Exposure to urushiol, an oil produced by the plant and found in its leaves and stems, causes an allergic reaction — the itchy rash. Some people have reactions so severe they need medical attention or even hospitalization.

There are three types of poison ivy common to the Granite State, according to Helaine Hughes, owner of The Poison Ivy Removal Company in Greenfield. There’s the Eastern climbing variety that can take over trees and power lines, Western ivy that grows like a shrub, and Rydberg’s, a creeping variety of poison ivy.

“The biggest problem that people have is they don’t know how to identify poison ivy,” Hughes said.

In the spring, the three-leaved plant is reddish-green and shiny. In the summer, it becomes a dull, matte green almost like poinsettia leaves, Hughes said. And in the fall, poison ivy takes on the quintessential fall colors, turning brilliant red, orange and gold.

Poison ivy thrives in the edges between two landscapes, according to Hagen. The space between a forest and a field, the border between a garden and a lawn, or banks of a riverbed on the side of the road are all prime locations.

“For some reason, poison ivy likes edges,” Hagen said.

The plant spreads through underground runners, said Hughes, but also with the help of birds who eat the seeds from poison ivy berries in the fall and drop them into stone walls or garden beds or into rivers, where they travel downstream and take root.

Getting rid of it

Getting rid of poison ivy is a chore, said Hagen, because the plant is hardy, will grow in just about any conditions, and is invasive. With a small infestation, she recommends going after the plant and its roots with loppers and applying weed and brush killer to the open cut on the stem. Larger patches can be fought back with some persistence and some Roundup or an organic acid-based herbicide — both of which come with drawbacks and controversy.

What Hughes does to remove poison ivy from her clients’ properties is to go after the plant at the roots. Dressed in Tyvek suits with thick rubber gloves taped at the wrist, and overshoes, Hughes and her all-female team seek out the poison ivy and follow it to where it began, yanking it out and depositing it in black plastic bags that will then be hauled to the dump.

Persistence is necessary because it can keep coming back if people aren’t watching for it.

“Poison ivy thrives when people aren’t paying attention,” said Hagen.

When it comes to disposing of poison ivy, the most important rule is to never, ever burn it, said Hagen. When burned, the oil from the plant becomes airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, causing an internal case of poison ivy that could require hospitalization.

It’s also unwise to put poison ivy into a compost heap; anywhere it’s thrown, it can take root and grow anew. The best advice Hagen and Hughes offer is to bag it and bring it to the dump, being careful not to get the oil on the outside of the bag.

Precautionary measures

Hughes and her employees are all susceptible to poison ivy, so they use extreme measures to ensure the urushiol oil doesn’t contaminate their equipment, vehicles or skin.

After handling the ivy, Hughes and company carefully strip off their protective clothing and throw it away, and then scrub with Tecnu, a product that binds to the oil and prevents it from being absorbed into the skin.

“We follow the 15-minute rule,” said Hughes. “You’ve got to get the oil off of you in 15 minutes or less if you’re going to avoid getting the rash. And it’s less than that for people with sensitive skin.”

Using cold water, not hot, is best for washing the oil off the skin, said Dr. Christine Doherty of Balance Point Natural Medicine in Milford. Hot water can open the pores of the skin, allowing the oil to get in.

Another product that helps is Ivyblock, said Doherty. It creates a barrier and keeps the oil from being absorbed into the skin.

Anything that comes in contact with the oil should be washed immediately after exposure — including clothing, shoes, and especially pets, who can track the oil around the house. Unless it’s exposed to rain or some sort of solvent like rubbing alcohol, urushiol can hang around for years, Hughes said.

nfoster@newstote.com

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Poison Ivy An old enemy lies in wait for the unsuspecting

You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

With spring will come green plants, some of which give humans contact dermatitis or irritated skin.

There are three main offenders to watch for locally: western poison ivy, nettles and wild parsnip, said Randy Schindle, private land specialist with the Department of Natural Resources.

All three irritate in different ways, he added.

“Poison ivy has a chemical in it; more an allergic reaction,” Schindle said.

It gives a person water blisters and severe itching, but there’s a simple cure.

“Soap and water takes care of it,” Schindle said. “Get to soap as quick as you can.”

Touching poison ivy isn’t the only danger. If you’re trying to get rid of it with fire, watch out.

“Breathe it in when it’s burning and you’ll get a reaction in the lungs,” Schindle said. “Not a good thing.”

poison ivy
You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

Poison ivy is a low vine with three leaves that are usually glossy and turn red in the fall. The berries are white/light green and are eaten by birds. Other than feeding the birds, Schindle didn’t know of any other purpose it serves, but said it was a native plant.

Nettles are also native. Look for a wood stem covered with leaves that have serrated edges, and “a greenish-white spike of flowers on top,” Schindle said.

“It gets pretty tall,” he added. “I’ve seen it over six feet.”

Both kinds of nettles – stinging nettle and wood nettle – have “little hairs” that inject histamine and other chemicals, he said.

“It just burns more than anything,” Schindle said of the reaction. It doesn’t cause water blisters, but the skin might get red.

Ironically, it doesn’t burn indiscriminately.

“It only burns where you don’t have fingerprints,” Schindle said. “You can actually touch it with the pads of your fingers, but [if you touch it] with the backs of your fingers, it’ll burn you.”

poison ivy
You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

The chemicals don’t stand up to boiling water.

“Drop it in boiling water and you have instant spinach,” Schindle said. “I’ve eaten them and they’re quite good.”

Schindle said nettles might be found in health food stores, but he wasn’t sure what it is used for.

Although nettles might made a good substitute for your salad, you don’t want to mistake wild parsnip – and Schindle said it’s easy to do.

“Wild parsnip is in the dill or carrot family,” he said. It’s a wild form of domestic parsnip and looks similar to dill or Golden Alexander, which are beneficial, while wild parsnip is dangerous.

“It will cause very severe blistering and burning,” Schindle said.

Make sure you take note of where wild parsnip grows, because whether you react to it or not depends on when you encounter it.

“Wild parsnip has a photo-chemical reaction that reacts with sunshine,” Schindle said. “If you’re out in the dark, you’re fine.”

Wild parsnip can be a big plant, growing to 6 feet, he said. It has bigger seed than its look-a-likes, and the leaves are different.

Unlike poison ivy and nettles, wild parsnip is not native.

poison ivy
You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

“It’s a very invasive plant,” Schindle warned.

People can help keep it from spreading by being careful when they mow, particularly road ditches.

“It’s biennial, like carrots,” Schindle said.

Biennials die after two years. The first year, wild parsnip will just get leaves. The second year, it will bloom, go to seed and die. When they are mowed while in seed, it spreads the seeds and allows the plants to proliferate.

It’s best to get rid of it before it goes to seed, Schindle said.

“Mow them just when they’re starting to bloom,” he said.

Another way to get rid of all three is herbicide, but check the labels or ask the advice of a plant expert. Schindle said nettles can be pulled by hand, but you must wear gloves.

“Just be sure of your ID before you decide to control them,” Schindle warned. “You might be controlling a beneficial plant.”

poison ivy

You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking | You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking
You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking | You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

You don’t want to itch for spring – poison ivy is lurking

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