Anyone who went to summer camp as a kid will remember this one – “leaves of three, let it be.”
Right, I’m talking about poison ivy, the three-season menace to enjoying time outdoors.
But there’s more to steering clear of this plant than just remembering that simple saying.
First, as you probably know poison ivy is a vine, one that you’ll find along the ground or climbing up trees. But, to make things even more confusing, it can also morph into a shrub!
That can happen when the vine gets to the top of what’s it’s been climbing on and then has no place else to go. It keeps sticking out shoots that can eventually become branches, ones that don’t seem to be poison ivy at all.
How to identify poison ivy
But luckily, there are still some “rules” as to what to look out for.
The website poison-ivy.org gives these tips…
Poison ivy ALWAYS:
- Has three leaves,
- That group of three will always grow off stems that alternate, never directly across, or opposing each other.
Poison ivy NEVER:
- Has thorns on its stem,
- Has saw-toothed or scalloped leaves.
And those poison ivy leaves can be shiny or dull, notched or not.
2 unexpected poison ivy dangers
But even if you know how to ID it, there are two more unexpected ways poison ivy can still get you.
While dogs are immune to the itching and burning caused by contact with the resin from the plant, they can still carry enough of on their fur to transfer it right to you – or anyone else who pets or hugs them.
So if Fido has been nosing around in suspect areas, the best way to stay safe is to immediately give him a bath, or at the very least, wipe him down with a disposable cloth before bringing him inside.
Don’t burn poison ivy plants! If you thought skin contact was bad, that’s nothing compared to inhaling the smoke from it. Burning the vine can cause a serious allergic reaction that can hit your nose, lungs and throat.
And if you do come into contact with it, remember to try and keep the area cool. That means no hot showers, heat packs or even direct sun exposure. And never, ever touch your eyes if you think you may have handled poison ivy plants until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
And remember, poison ivy doesn’t look the same all year around. Check this website for some pictures of what to look out for.
With the warm months finally here we all we be spending a lot more time outdoors. Share these tips with friends and family to help them steer clear of the dreaded poison ivy rash.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
Visit www.hsionline.com to sign up for the free HSI e-Alert.
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