Recognizing the 'Poison' Plants Part 1

Recognizing the ‘Poison’ Plants Part 1

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Recognizing the 'Poison' Plants Part 1With all the lovely greenery beginning to bud around Smith Mountain Lake, don’t forget to be cautious about the ones that can cause allergic reactions or contact dermatitis. I don’t have to remind those of you who have encountered these nasty irritants in the past with terrible consequences, but for those of you who have perhaps forgotten what poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac look like, read on.

First let’s look at the most common culprit, poison ivy, pictured at the top and below. (Thanks to the Ohio State Weed Lab and Charles T. Bryson for the use of their pictures.) Poison ivy allergies are the most common in this country. Over half the population has mild to severe allergic reactions to the urushiol oil in this plant. While some people think they are immune to poison ivy that is not exactly the case. The more times you are exposed to this irritant, the more likely you are to break out in a rash. Different folks have different reaction times.

Recognizing the 'Poison' Plants Part 1Rumor has it that poison ivy is contagious to others from a rash or spreads on the skin from scratching. However, if the urushiol oil of the plant has been thoroughly washed from the skin there is no danger of spreading the rash, as it is solely due to contact with the oil. A good thing to know is that the oil has been found active on many surfaces, including the dead plant for up to 5 years, so beware of brush piles and weeds even in winter. Lawnmowers, trimmers, and burning plants can all put you in intense contact with poison ivy oil with severe results.

If you have already made contact and have a rash and are not severely allergic, you can try such remedies as Burts Bees Poison Ivy Soap, Bloodroot, and Calamine Lotion.

If you would like to identify a rash you picked up in the woods or while doing some backyard work, you can look at various rash pictures on Dr. Hardin’s website or at

You can go to the Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center Online for further informationPoison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center Online.

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