Poison ivy is a constant companion on trail. Over the years I have developed strategies for preventing and controlling exposure.
1.The first rule is to know my enemy. I have found that this foe comes in a wide variety of forms, colors and shapes. Knowing that there is a near infinite amount of variation helps in recognition. The traditional three leaves at the end of a stem is the starting point. Beyond that, the leaves can be toothed, smooth, shiny, dry, dark red, dark green, medium red, light green and etc. The leaves may resemble oak, Virginia creeper or a wide number of other plants. The vines can grow along the ground, form a thicket up to several feet high or climb trees like Virginia creeper, wild grape and Oriental bittersweet. Although the vines are usually hairy, this can vary.
2.Touch no plants I do not know.
3.Pet no animals that have been for a walk in the woods or fields – their fur can carry the oils.
4.Dogs are sent for a swim near the end of a walk and then held on a tight leash to the vehicle. If a swim is not possible, the dog is wrapped in towels until it can be washed.
5.When knowingly having been in contact with poison ivy on a trail I wash all exposed skin in fresh running water, preferably with clean sand, to remove the oils as soon as possible after contact.
6.Shoes are dusted with talcum or baby powder after a walk to absorb the oils and put into a plastic bag.
7.Clothing is peeled from the inside out so that the oils are contained where I will not touch them and put into a bag.
8.Skin that has been in contact is washed with soap and water or rubbing alcohol as soon as possible after the walk.
9.All clothing is washed separately at least twice after a walk where poison ivy contract is probable.
10.Jewel weed has worked with me to help heal a dermatitis outbreak. I also use aspirin or another anti-inflammatory to control symptoms. This is me, it may not work for other people.
11.Cortisone creams may work, but I am not certain. The same is true with the poison ivy scrubs. I also have planned beach trips when the outbreak is extensive, hoping the salt water and sun will help the healing process.
12.If the case is severe, see a doctor.
Richard Gardner lives in Upper Bern Twp. His passions are ecology and history because with these we are able to understand our world, our place in it and our future.