February 24, 2020

Working in the yard? Beware of poison ivy

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By Ed Pfeifer

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 8:11 p.m.

May 29, 2013

Mowing, trimming, pruning, mulching. The homeowner’s June routine is a sun-dappled foray into the great outdoors and usually one of the most enjoyable times of the year.

Some of us though, after performing our outdoor labor, will begin to itch. We will develop a rash and then we will realize that the low growing vine in the corner of the yard is poison ivy. Uh-oh!

Poison ivy is one of this region’s native vines and although it prefers some areas over others, it may be found just about anywhere there is dirt.

Simply touching it results in the transference of urushiol (u-roo-she-all), an odorless, colorless oil that causes skin irritation in some 85-percent of those who contact it. Urushiol rashes can be brutal, sometimes resulting in blisters and weeks of itching and irritation.

So, what to do? Well our first line of defense against is preventing contact through proper identification.

Since poison ivy can take on the form of a woody vine, a soft vine or even a shrub, and since the leaves can be rounded, toothed or lobed, it may be difficult to recognize.

But its three leaf pattern is its giveaway characteristic. So to be safe, follow the old saying “leaves of three, let it be”.

Great photos of poison ivy are available online and studying those photos is a good idea.

The most effective treatments for killing this annual nuisance are synthetic liquids labeled as poison ivy or tough brush killer.

They normally contain a chemical called glyphosate, which will kill the plant to the root and not have any sterilizing effect on the soil. Never pull or cut poison ivy. The pieces of root left behind will sprout into new plants creating the potential for even more.

Additionally, contacting poison ivy, even with gloves, is not advisable and trimming or mowing will make airborne the dreaded urushiol.

For those of you who like to think you are “immune” to urushiol — and we’ve all heard these folks who say “I don’t get poison ivy” — I would caution you not be so bold.

Increased contact with the stuff will likely decrease your resistance and then one day you will be scratching the rash you thought you would never get. Mother Nature has a way of putting us in our place does she not?

For those of you who do get the rash, there is great news from deep in the Ozark mountains. That’s where a polite man named Charles Baker is cooking up and shipping out batches of his grandmother’s recipe for Poison Ivy Soap.

Poison Ivy Soap is a simple all natural product designed to stop the itch and remove the urushiol from the victim’s skin. It contains a large quantity of jewel weed, a common plant long known for itch neutralizing ability. It really does work and it contains no harsh chemicals or perfumes — desirable qualities all.

It’s true that tending to your home, yard and garden has its hazards and pitfalls. Nobody ever said being a do-it-yourselfer was for wimps. But with a little forethought, poison ivy can be avoided, with a bit of effort it can be destroyed and when all else fails, a bar of soap, laden with some of nature’s own best stuff, can calm its ill effects.

Ed Pfeifer is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media and the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.

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