Poison Ivy Identification & Treatment

Poison Ivy Identification & Treatment
The poison ivy vine is hairy in appearance due to aerial roots.

You take your pooch for a romp in the woods or on one of our many bike paths. Before you lean against this tree to retie your shoe, would you guess this vine was poison ivy?

Beware of hairy vines! "Leaves of three" may be MANY feet over your head!

Yes, that IS a huge vine. The hairy roots are the tip off here. Poison ivy can easily grow 15 feet high and higher with woody vines as thick as an arm. Or, as thick as my leg. I think this might be the original poison ivy vine in this area. It. Is. Massive.

I think this might be the original poison ivy vine (of, like, ever). Massive.

I think this might be the original poison ivy vine (of, like, ever). Massive.

ALL parts of the poison ivy plant are "poison" ALL year long. Even if the plant is dead!

I made it my mission then to learn everything about poison ivy after a particularly nasty bout with it that nearly landed me in the hospital many years ago. (I can even recognize the roots now since I also caught in in November while planting daffodil bulbs). And since we have SO much in this area, all over the woods and lining bike paths, I want to make sure you know what you need also.

How to be an Awesome Dad Tip #1:

Learn to Recognize Poison Ivy Before You Take Your Kids on a Fun Hike!

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy's "leaves of three."

What inspires me to share?  Watching a dad march his kids through poison ivy to look at frogs, for one thing. I grew up in a wild area along a river. Most kids around here grow up with manicured yards and many of their parents did also. To a lot of people, those green leaves pictured above can really blend in and just look like 'regular' weeds.

I was telling a good friend of mine about the dad marching his kids through the stuff and how I had intervened and explained that they were in poison ivy and she said something that blew my mind:

If they even knew what you meant by poison ivy!"

It never occurred to me that some kids might never even have heard of poison ivy before and might think 'poison' simply means you shouldn't eat it. (Deer love it, btw.) They would just walk away thinking they met a crazy person who had warned them about eating weeds. Until the next day when they and their parents learn a new phrase: "Calamine lotion."

The second thing that inspires me to share is that the bike trails, every creek, stream and pretty much every vacant lot along a street is rimmed with poison ivy.  That means if you have a dog and they like to sniff (and of course it will), then, at some point, they WILL dive headlong into the stuff. 

Don't worry, THEY won't catch it. But YOU might!

What makes poison ivy "poison?"

ALL parts of the plant (even DEAD plants and cut vines) have a greasy, invisible oil called urushiol. It's very sticky and can easily adhere to your dog's fur, or your garden tools, or your shoes, pants, or bike tires.

Sounds a bit intimidating, doesn't it? Don't let it be.

Urushiol is long-lasting sticky oil, but that doesn't mean poison ivy has magical powers.

Watch this video:

You will see Tecnu in the video. You can get it at any ordinary drug store, over near the calamine lotion. It is a solvent, and smells a little like turpentine. I've found it to be much more effective and a lot cheaper than Zanfel but having seen this video, I'm definitely going with a degreaser like Dawn in the future. (And, like this gentleman, I haven't had a major outbreak of poison ivy in 15 years and I'm in it all the time.)

What if you DO get it? Personally, I'd skip the messy calamine lotion in favor of cooling Rhuli gel except that the legendary Rhuli Gel has gone through two iterations since I've needed it. First it was bought by Johnson & Johnson (Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel) and then it was taken over by Benadryl as Anti-Itch Gel  . They have a kid's version as well.

Simply must know more? For all things poison ivy, here is a great resource for you.

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Filed under: Enjoying the Outdoors

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