Camping. Backpacking. Walking in the woods. A great time to be out away from home and trekking in the great outdoors. It’s also a great time to brush against one of the poison plants and end up with a great rash- or worse.
The first step in preventing your outing from being ruined by poison ivy poison oak or poison sumac is to recognize what these plants look like. Often you only see drawings of the plants which doesn’t help when you’re in the woods. For lots of good “outdoors” pictures of these poison plants, go to http://poisonivy.aesir.com/view/pictures.html
The substance in poison ivy that causes the problem is Urushiol oil. 500 people could get a rash from the amount of Urushiol on the head of a pin- ¼ ounce could cause a rash in every person on the earth. The oil stays active (even on dead plants) for up to 5 years. Poison ivy is the most common allergy in the country.
A quiz you can use with your Scouts:
Fact or Fiction: Poison ivy rash is contagious.
Fiction- Touching the rash will NOT spread it to other parts of your body. You only get the rash from coming in contact with the urushiol oil.
Fact or Fiction: Leaves of three, let them be.
Fiction- While poison ivy and poison oak have 3 leaves, poison sumac has 7 to 13 leaves on a branch.
Fact or Fiction: Breaking blisters releases urushiol oil that can spread the rash
Fiction- breaking blisters does not spread the rash, but the blisters can become infected and broken blisters can make scarring worse.
You can not always avoid contact with poison plants. If you think you might have contacted poison ivy,
1. Wash with soap and water to remove the oil before it penetrates the skin surface.
2. Reaction to the oil usually takes 24 to 48 hours
3. Some people (about 15% of the population) are highly sensitive to the oil and react in 4 to 12 hours. In some cases the reaction is severe and includes eyes swelling shut and large blisters. THIS SHOULD BE TREATED AS AN EMERGENCY AND THE PATIENT SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BE TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL FOR TREATMENT.
4. Once the rash has surfaced, little can be done other than to let the rash run its course. This is usually 10 to 14 days.
5. There are numerous treatments and many are listed on the attached Web pages.
One thought to keep in mind- the oil can be spread by fires or can become airborne by being cut by a lawn mower or grass trimmer.
Enjoy your time in the woods but be observant as you walk. You may not have gotten a rash the last time you touched poison ivy but this does not mean you are immune. It may just mean that your time has just not arrived.