According to a report published in Weed Science, research indicates
that poison ivy has grown much more aggressive since the 1950s, with
leaf size and oil content measurably increased. This is bad news if
you are one of the more than 350,000 people who are stricken by
poison ivy annually.
Poison ivy tops the list of plants to avoid because it contains
urushiol, an oily resin that binds to the skin on contact and may
result in a hypersensitivity reaction characterized by itching,
burning skin eruptions. This rash-causing poison ivy sap is a clear
liquid found in the plant's leaves and the roots, which many people
develop an allergy to over time.
Urushiol oil remains active for several years, so handling dead
leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred
from the plant to other objects -- such as gardening tools, an
article of clothing or even a pet -- can cause the rash when it
comes in contact with human skin. If poison ivy is eaten, the mucus
lining of the mouth and digestive tract can be damaged. And if
poison ivy is burned and the smoke inhaled, a rash may appear in the
lining of the lungs, causing extreme pain and respiratory difficulty
that may become life-threatening.
Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical
BioMedics, makers of Topricin, says, "It's a particularly strong
year for poison ivy, so it's important for everyone to be aware
there are ways to prevent outbreaks, or safely treat rashes and
minimize the discomfort and duration should they occur."
About the plant
Capt. John Smith was the first to describe the plant, coining the
name "poison ivy" in 1609. Poison ivy grows throughout much of North
America and is extremely common in New England, the mid-Atlantic and
southeastern U.S. It's typically found in wooded areas, as well as
exposed rocky areas and open fields, and can be recognized by its
group of three leaflets on small stems coming off larger main stems.
For decades, parents have taught their children the singsong phrase
"leaves of three, let it be" as a way of learning to spot this
pretty but toxic plant. Poison ivy also has inconspicuous greenish
flowers with five petals, and the berry-like fruits are hard and
There are two types of poison ivy, the climbing variety,
toxicondendron radicans, and the non-climbing, toxicodendron
rydbergil (from the Latin toxicum, "poison," and the Greek
dendron, "tree"). Because the varieties interbreed, they look
similar and sometimes grow in the same places. They also create the
same allergic rash, which may last anywhere from a week to three
Although some people are immune to poison ivy, most people
develop a rash after coming in contact with the plant. After the oil
has touched the skin, it takes about 12 to 36 hours for redness and
swelling to appear, followed by blisters and itching.
Contrary to popular belief, scratching or oozing blister fluid
cannot spread the outbreak or transfer it to other people. New
lesions that appear a few days after a breakout of primary lesions
means that there was less oil deposited on that area of the skin, or
that the skin was less sensitive to it.
Winning the battle against poison ivy
Poison ivy's urushiol oil is extremely potent, and only 1
nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash. Even if
you've never broken out, you cannot assume you are immune, as the
more often you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that
you will break out with an allergic rash. In fact, upwards of 90
percent of the population develops an allergy to it.
You and your family can have a more enjoyable fall by following
these tips for avoiding outbreaks of poison ivy, along with the
helpful treatments for soothing and healing rashes if you do
with the plant is, of course, the best prevention. At least 50
percent of the people who come into contact with poison ivy
develop an itchy rash.
Go on an
expedition, wearing long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, boots
and gloves to minimize exposure. Tour your yard, the playground,
the route your children walk to school, a campsite you're
visiting and any other outdoor areas you frequent. When you spot
poison ivy, show it to your kids and instruct them to stay away
If you have a
large amount growing in your yard, consult with a professional
landscaper for removal. (Unless you are a professional, do not
"weed whack" as it sprays the poison ivy -- and hence the oil --
right at you.)
Avoid the most
dangerous type of exposure, which occurs when the plant is
burned and the smoke is inhaled. This can affect your lungs.
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Prior to any
outdoor activity, apply odorless, greaseless Topricin Pain
Relief and Healing Cream to any exposed areas of your body,
including face, neck, hands and arms. This will form a
protective barrier, making it more difficult for the urushiol
oil to bond with your skin. Topricin contains natural medicines
that also antidote and neutralize the adverse affect of urushiol
oil. As a plus, Topricin is a gardener's favorite for relieving
aches and pains from doing yardwork.
Urushiol oil is
extremely stable and will stay potent for years -- which means
you can get a rash from clothing or tools that got oil on them
many seasons ago. After exposure to poison ivy, put on gloves
and wipe everything you had with you and on you with rubbing
alcohol and water, including shoes, tools and clothing. Then
wash clothes at least twice before wearing (using bleach, if
possible), hose off garden tools well and apply leather
moisturizer on footwear items to prevent them from drying out
(again, put on gloves).
Pets seem to be immune from getting
poison ivy, but many people do get a rash from the residual
urushiol oil on pets' fur. Therefore, it's a good idea to bathe
your dog or cat while wearing thick rubber gloves (not latex).
After washing the pet, wash yourself, using cold water to keep
pores closed. Consult with your veterinarian if you have
Urushiol binds to
skin proteins and begins to penetrate within 15 minutes of
contact. If treated before that time, a reaction may be
prevented. First, wash exposed site with cold water (hot water
will open your pores, allowing the oil in). Follow this by
bathing the site in milk, which helps to get between oil and
skin. Dry off well and then apply Topricin, which will help
neutralize the effect of any remaining urushiol oil left on your
Scrub under your
nails. You can spread poison ivy to other parts of your body by
having the oil on your fingers.
ivy grows, there is usually a plant known as jewelweed growing
close by -- especially in moister, shadier areas. Herbalists and
Native Americans have used jewelweed for centuries to treat and
speed the healing of poison ivy, as it seems to be a natural
remedy. When you are in the field and may have been exposed to
poison ivy, pick jewelweed, slice the stem and rub its juice on
your skin to ease irritation and help prevent a breakout.
Some companies and
herbalists offer poison ivy treatment soaps that contain
jewelweed and other soothing natural ingredients, such as pine
tar. Soaps are available from Poison Ivy Soap Co., Burt's Bees
or search online for sources.
Rhus Tox 30X tablets to help build immunity to poison ivy.
For severe outbreaks, or if you have
any concerns, see your doctor right away.
Symptoms requiring immediate medical attention
If you experience any of the following symptoms, go to the
emergency room right away:
Many rashes and
blisters or a rash that covers most of your body
A rash that
develops anywhere on your face of genitals
Swelling, especially if an eyelid
[Text from file received from
Topical BioMedics is a research and development leader in topical
natural medicines for pain relief. The company's product line
includes original Topricin Pain Relief and Healing Cream, Topricin
Foot Therapy Cream, and Topricin for Children. The natural formulas
have been awarded a patent for the topical treatment of pain
associated with fibromyalgia and neuropathy, and they are safe for
Topricin products are made in the U.S.A. and are in compliance
with federal rules for homeopathic over-the-counter medicines.
Topricin products are growing in popularity and are safe for
diabetics and the entire family, including pregnant women. Topricin
is also a lifestyle product that athletes and other active people
appreciate for its ability to help with performance and recovery.
Topricin formulas contain no parabens, petroleum or harsh
chemicals; are odorless, greaseless and nonirritating; and produce
no known side effects. Doctors and pharmacists can find more
information about Topricin in the Physicians' Desk Reference.