Wisconsin has plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy during the beautiful spring and summer months. While you’re planning your next yard project, or a biking, camping, or hiking adventure, it’s important to be aware of everything you can encounter while exploring nature or working in your yard. Poison ivy is one of the dangerous plants you can run into while outside if you’re not careful.
What Is Poison Ivy?
Poison ivy is a poisonous plant commonly found in ditches, fence lines, beaches, parks, and woods throughout Wisconsin and most of the country during the spring and summer. When the skin has direct contact with poison ivy, it can cause an allergic reaction usually accompanied by an irritating and itchy rash or blisters. The oil resin, called urushoil, in poison ivy is what causes the irritations. You can also get a reaction if you touch objects or surfaces that have also been exposed to poison ivy.
How to Identify Poison Ivy
It can be difficult to pick poison ivy out of the large greenery surrounding you. Poison ivy has three leaflets, with the middle leaf slightly larger in size than the others. Young poison ivy leaves are smooth around the edges while mature poison ivy leaves have serrated edges. Later in the summer, poison ivy produces clusters of white berries that are eaten by birds. Other common plants such as wild strawberry and raspberry plants look similar to poison ivy, but most have noticeably different stems or leaflets.
Symptoms of Poison Ivy
After spending time outside, keep an eye out for the general symptoms of poison ivy reactions:
- Red and/or itchy skin
- You might have difficulty breathing if you inhaled smoke from burning poison ivy. If this happens, you should seek medical attention immediately.
If you’re going to be around an area where poison ivy grows, wear long pants, long sleeves, boots, and gloves to reduce exposure. While it might not sound enjoyable to wear this many layers when it’s warm out, it’s worth avoiding headaches such as poison ivy or pulling off ticks.
Look into poison ivy preventative lotions for extra protection if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Bathe any pets that might have encountered the plant and wash the clothes you were wearing while outside.
How to Treat Poison Ivy
If you encounter poison ivy, you should wash the skin as soon as possible. Removing the oil quickly may lessen the chances of developing a rash. Do not use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as poison ivy treatments. These will irritate the skin rather than sooth it. The rash will usually develop within 12-48 hours after exposure and can last up to two or three weeks. It usually appears in a straight line on your skin because of how the plant brushes against your skin. It can spread further if you touch clothing or a pet that also has come in contact with poison ivy.
Calamine or hydrocortisone cream, cold compresses, oatmeal baths, and cool baths are helpful remedies to treat mild poison ivy and relieve your symptoms at home. Keep the rash uncovered to allow quicker healing. If the reaction is more severe, it might need a prescription to clear it up completely. Reach out to your doctor if you develop severe symptoms such as:
- A widespread or severe rash
- Swelling skin
- A rash affecting your eyes or mouth
- Blisters with pus
- A fever higher than 100 F
- The rash doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks
Rural Mutual cares about protecting Wisconsin. For more summer safety tips, reach out to your local Rural Mutual agent.