Gardeners beware! Poison ivy was listed among the top 8 most toxic plants in Canadian gardens by The Weather Network. Scientifically known as the Rhus radicans L, this toxic climbing plant is abundant in South Ontario spreading all the way to Kenora and North Cochrane. It has also been found carpeting South of Lake Huron all the way to the Northern Bay.
Poison ivy is a very resilient plant that grows in both wet and dry areas. You can find it in swamps and deep woods, as well as dry sandy areas like along riversides. It can also be spotted by the road side, along fence rows and even in rock crevices. Poison ivy is sometimes compared to poison oak and poison sumac. However, the difference between the three is that poison ivy’s leaves are usually clustered in groups of three, and are a brighter green. The plant also features hairy vines.
Ways of coming in contact with poison ivy
The Poison ivy plant produces an oil resin called urushiol. Urushiol produces rashes when it comes into contact with the human skin. Contact typically occurs in 3 ways:
When you touch the plant and rub it on your skin.
By touching clothes, tools or even pet fur that may have been in contact with the poison ivy.
Contact through inhalation. Smoke from burnt poison ivy plants also produces urisol that will lead to irritation of the lungs and the nasal cavity.
Symptoms of a poison ivy reaction
It does not take much urushiol to cause a reaction. Less than the size of a salt grain of urushiol is enough to cause a reaction in most people. Some of the most common symptoms include: redness of the skin, itching and swelling that can lead to the development of small or large blisters. Difficulty in breathing can also be experienced when you come into contact with smoke from burnt poison ivy.
These symptoms usually occur between 12 to 72 hours after contact with the plant. The severity depends on the amount of urushiol one has come in contact with and the individual resistance to allergic reactions are a determinant to how severe the rashes will be. Luckily, the rashes usually disappear after one to three weeks.
Treatment and prevention of poison ivy
While there are over the counter drugs that can be used to remedy the symptoms mentioned above, there are plenty of poison ivy home remedies. These include washing the skin with warm water, calamine lotion or witch hazel. You can also apply fresh aloe vera on the affected areas. This should be done between 20 to 30 minutes after exposure to gain the best results.
Treatment can also be provided by a primary care physician. Only see a dermatologist when the conditions become severe, such as when puss starts to form. Though treatable, the best treatment for poison ivy is prevention. When contact is inevitable, wear protective clothing such as gloves and boots. Wash pet fur, tools or clothes 30 minutes after exposure to avoid coming into contact with urushiol.
Poison ivy does not have fatal consequences. Nevertheless, make sure that you know what poison ivy looks like and dress appropriately to avoid exposure.
Ali Anderson is a freelance writer who worked for several years in the health sector. She is married with two daughters and loves the flexibility of the freelance lifestyle.