Keep An Eye Out For Itching Ivy!

June is Great Outdoors Month, which makes it the perfect time to go outside and explore nature. Even though the wilderness can be quite large, it’s the smallest citizens of the countryside that can make the most impact, often in a harmful way. Toxic plants likepoison ivy, oak and sumac can do a great deal of damage despite their small size.

These plants are found across the East Coast and are poisonous if touched. The leaves of the plants are covered with a sticky oil that causes painful reactions when it comes into contact with skin. Touching them can leave a rash of itchy blisters that appear right away.

How to avoid them. Know what to look for. If you see a cluster of plants that seem overly bright, look like weeds, or are out of place—for instance, there are no other small plants around or a grouping of plants looks similar but oddly different from a larger bush—steer clear.

Both poison ivy and oak are found on the ground, as vines wrapped around trees or in bushes. Poison sumac is typically on its own as a bush or a tree. The leaves of each plant help give them away:

  • Poison ivy typically has three leaves per plant and start off red but turn green in the summer, then yellow or orange in the fall. The leaves are pointed at the tip and curve down and inward before jutting out again.
  • Poison oak looks like smaller versions of common oak leaves: they’re green and round with smaller curves on the edges. While not all the time, poison oak plants usually have three leaves per plant. The leaves can also be shiny and have little hairs.
  • Poison sumac looks the plainest, with oval-shaped leaves along its branch. Poison sumac branches have seven to 13 leaves with one lone leave sticking out at the end of the branch. The leaves start off orange in the spring, turn green in the summer and become red, yellow or go back to orange in the fall.

What to do if you see them? Don’t touch them! If you spot the grievous greenery, step away. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when walking in the woods to protect against accidental contact. If you are working in a garden and see the wily weeds, use gloves and handle the plants with care, throwing them away in a garbage bag away from others’ hands.

If you do brush up against the plants, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible. Use calamine or hydrocortisone lotions to help relieve itching. Ice packs may also lessen irritation. Rashes aren’t contagious and typically go away within one to three weeks. You should visit a doctor if you get a fever or the rash is on or near your face.

How the Local 94 Health and Benefit Trust Fund Can Help

The Health and Benefit Trust Fund’s medical benefits cover urgent care and physician office visits if you need them (hopefully only as a last resort).

Want More Tips on Dealing with Poison Plants?

Visit the FDA website on dealing with poison ivy, oak and sumac.

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