Is It Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy isn't going to seriously hurt you, but a brush with this oil vine can leave your skin itchy and inflamed for days. If you like spending time outdoors - whether you prefer hiking, fishing, biking or camping -- then you might want to educate yourself on the appearance of poison ivy. There's an old expression about poison ivy leaves that goes, ""leaves of three, let it be!"" While that's a pretty vague statement considering the number of plants with three-leaved buds, it's also a catchy rule that might safe you from a run-in with this nuisance plant.

Poison ivy can grow on the ground, around bushes, and even climb up trees on vines. You have to be aware since it can really grow anywhere. The ivy grows in clusters of three leaflets, and those individual leaflets can be two to four inches long. The middle leaf of the bunch is usually a bit longer than the others as well.

If you have the misfortune of coming into contact with these pesky leaves, then you might get a rash on your skin. These itchy, swollen rashes are caused by the toxins known to the plant called an urushiol. It will spread to your skin if you touch it, or if it comes in contact with something on your body such as your shoes or clothing. Then it can easily transfer itself to other parts of your skin or even in your eyes. Don't touch your face if you have any reason to believe you've come into contact with poison ivy.

The skin rash from poison ivy only takes a few hours to develop, and affected areas of the body itch and sting. The rash might swell up a bit to be very red, and blisters may develop if it's severe enough. Some people get it worse than others since it depends on just how allergic you are to the toxins in the plants. If you do end up with a nasty rash then wash the area immediately, take an antihistamine, and try an over the counter cortisone cream to help with the itchy and burning that you may be experiencing. It will probably not require a trip to the ER at least, but the rash might last for up to two weeks.

So next time you are enjoying the outdoors with your family and friends have everyone keep an eye out for poison ivy leaves. If you have small children playing with you, scan the area where they are playing to make sure they don't come in contact with any of these rash inducing leaves. Getting poison ivy certainly isn't fun, but as least it's not fatal in any way at least for most people. Keep in mind as well that there are other plants out in the wild that can give you a rash in the same way as poison ivy, such as poison sumac or oak. Most of the time if you just pay attention to the ground brush around you then you and your family should be fine.

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