How to avoid contact with thriving poison ivy

Along with most of our desirable garden, prairie, and woodland plants, undesirable poison ivy is truly thriving right now. That means that gardeners, hikers and others who spend time outdoors need to be watchful.

The key to watchfulness is being able to identify poison ivy when we spot it. Everyone has heard the adage, ?Leaves of three, let it be.? While it is true that poison ivy has three leaves, so do many wonderful and non-toxic plants.

To be more specific, poison ivy is a woody vine. You may find it in garden spaces or turf grass, along trails or growing up trees. Its three leaves are configured with one at the end of a stalk and one to either side. The leaf surfaces are typically a bit brighter or shinier than surrounding vegetation. If you feel uncertain about recognizing, check some photos online for help.

Poison ivy is sometimes confused with (and often grows alongside) Virginia creeper, a desirable native Vining plant. When Virginia creeper plants are just getting started, they appear to have three leaves. However, with a bit more development, they will always have five.

Dealing with poison ivy depends on the circumstances. If you are hiking, you?ll want to avoid contact. If you?re in an area where plant contact is inevitable, cover up. Even in hot weather, you?re well-advised to wear closed-toe footwear, socks and lightweight long pants and long sleeves.

If you find poison ivy in your garden or lawn, you will probably want to remove it. The first step is to cover as to avoid any skin contact. Small plants may be pulled, bagged and discarded. If a larger plant cannot be removed entirely, the mini-stump should be painted with a non-selective systemic herbicide.

After encountering poison ivy, remove clothing very carefully to avoid contact with outer surfaces. Wash yourself with soap and lukewarm water, or use a product specifically designed to remove the poison ivy oil (urushiol) from skin. Launder your clothing and gloves in cold water. Wash any tools used with soap and water.

Never, under any circumstances, burn poison ivy. Even the hairy vines that you may see climbing trees trunks in winter are still toxic, and burning will release all that toxicity.

Most rashes from poison ivy, while truly miserable, can be treated successfully with over-the-counter remedies. However, a widespread rash or one close to the eyes requires timely medical attention.