Poison ivy can cause that itchy feeling

Poison ivy can be a big problem for kids playing outside. Poison ivy can also be a hazard to gardeners, people landscaping their yards, hikers, campers, and anyone else who likes to spend time outdoors. Wearing long pants and a shirt with long sleeves, boots and gloves can help prevent exposure when most at risk, especially when playing in wooden areas, around lakes, or going on hikes.

Poison Ivy is a skin rash you get by touching a plant or leaf that contains poison ivy. This plant contains an oil, called urushiol that causes the skin rash. If you are not sure if there is poison ivy where you live take a look at what's growing there. An old saying is "Leaves of three let them be", although poison ivy and oak have 3 leaves per cluster; poison sumac has 7 to 13 leaves on a branch.

Poison ivy is especially a problem on sections of the Appalachian Trail including near the Pinnacle in Berks County. Many state parks issue warnings about poison ivy including Evansburg State Park in Montgomery County and Jacobsburg State Park in Northampton County. The D&L Trail through Lehigh and Northampton Counties has especially high amounts of poison ivy along the canals and towpaths.

The signs and symptoms of poison ivy are not the same for every person. Some people are more sensitive to poison ivy than others. It also depends on the amount or severity of exposure. Most people will develop a small rash that is easily treated while a small amount of people are highly sensitive and may have severe symptoms or develop symptoms after a very mild exposure.

The poison ivy rash can start one to two days after exposure. Upwards of 90% of people are allergic to urushiol oil, it's a matter of time and exposure. The more times you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out with an allergic rash. For the first time sufferer, it generally takes longer for the rash to show up - generally in 7 to 10 days. The first sign of the rash is curved lines of red, itchy bumps or blisters. The rash can be present from days to weeks. However you can try to use Benadryl and over-the-counter creams to help the itching. Tecnu Original Outdoor Skin Cleanser has been used for over 34 years to remove poison ivy, oak and sumac oil. You can use Tecnu Original at any time to remove any urushiol left on your skin and it can even be used once the rash occurs.

Scratching the affected areas does not cause it to spread but may cause permanent scars. It is also not contagious. In rare cases or if near the face or genitals the person affected may need to seek medical help and either get a steroid shot or an antibiotic in order to make it go away.

No animal - other than humans - can get a rash from poison ivy. However, many people do get a rash from the urushiol oil on the fur of their pets.

The oil from poison ivy is extremely stable and will stay potent - essentially forever. You can get a rash from clothing or tools that have the oil from last summer, or even from many years back. So if you don't remove the oil by washing, using alcohol to dissolve it, or by just hosing off with a hard spray from a hose - assume it will stay forever.

Poison ivy is found everywhere in the US and southern Canada except the far west, deserts and at high altitude. Rising levels of carbon dioxide -- a so-called greenhouse gas that traps heat within the Earth's atmosphere -- can fuel poison ivy growth, research suggests. Exact numbers of poison ivy cases are tough to pinpoint because so many cases go unreported, according to a 2006 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More than 350,000 people each year suffer from poison ivy, according to that study.

Facts about urushiol;

  • Only 1 nanogram (billionth of a gram) needed to cause rash
  • Average is 100 nanograms for most people
  • 1/4 ounce of urushiol is all that is needed to cause a rash in every person on earth
  • 500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin
  • Specimens of urushiol several centuries old have found to cause dermatitis in sensitive people.
  • 1 to 5 years is normal for urushiol oil to stay active on any surface including dead plants
  • Derived from urushi, Japanese name for lacquer
  • Most common allergy in the country claiming half the population
  • Sensitivity to urushiol can develop at any time
  • Everyone appears to react slightly different to all the remedies
  • First published records of poison ivy in North America date back to 1600s
  • Rubbing the rashes won't spread poison ivy to other parts of your body (or to another person). You spread the rash only if urushiol oil -- the sticky, resinlike substance that causes the rash -- has been left on your hands.

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