If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you know how awful it is. Although it’s not usually life threatening, it is incredibly uncomfortable. An itchy red rash, swelling, and blisters are the primary indications that you’ve come into contact with urushiol, the irritating oil on poison ivy leaves.
How can you avoid this discomfort? Learn to recognize poison ivy so you can stay away from it! Poison ivy can be found in almost every state in the U.S., so chances are you’ve encountered it (hopefully, you didn’t touch it!). It can be hard to identify poison ivy because it grows in so many different forms; it can be a bush, a shrub, or even a climbing vine. The key is to look for three leaflets on one stem. In the spring, the leaves are reddish. They’ll appear green in the summer, and yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Leaf edges can be notched or smooth, so focus on the old saying: “Leaves of three, let it be!”
When you’re hiking or exploring wooded areas, stick to the path or trail and don’t wander off. Wear clothing that covers up areas of your body that might brush against the leaves. You can even tuck your socks into your pants for extra protection. If you have a pet who enjoys romping through the woods, make sure you hose her down before petting her; the oils can rub off on her fur and irritate your skin.
If you do come into contact with poison ivy, don’t touch the rash! You can spread the oil from one part of your body to another, so make sure to wash thoroughly. Most rashes don’t need medical treatment, but if your rash lasts for more than a couple of weeks, covers most of your body, or is so itchy that you can’t sleep, come to your local FastMed Urgent Care for some immediate relief.