I don’t know how many times I’ve had poison ivy over the years but I’m fortunate that it’s not as bad as some folks I’ve seen who must be more sensitive to it.
I’ve never really had such a terrible case, at least that I can recall, that it would scare children or make anyone cringe. I’ve been lucky, I guess. I know some folks who have rashes on their arms or legs, or faces, that are just horrible. And I can’t imagine the itching and pain of a severe rash.
Dr. Jim Brauker has some great information in this video for us to take into consideration if we’re going to be out and about this summer.
“Clean with any soap but make sure you use a washcloth or loofah on every possible place that might have been contaminated,” he says. “A damp washcloth alone is more effective than any of the cleaners without a washcloth.
“What is important is to make sure you apply vigorous friction with soap and a washcloth and you have to hit all the spots where you might have transferred the poison ivy: your waistband, your groin, anyplace on your body that you might have touched with your fingers.”
Urushiol is the oil in poison ivy that gets on your skin and causes the blistering rash. Just touching a leaf of poison ivy won’t make you break out all over. Touching it and then touching your skin does transfer the urushiol, though, and that’s one of the main ways we spread it around. It can happen when we’re cutting firewood, putting up game cameras, rubbing against poison ivy on a tree or other vegetation, mowing the yard and then rubbing your neck or face, taking a bathroom break, scratching your leg … it’s all a big spread-fest.
The last bad case I had was after doing some work cleaning up a ditch with a weed wacker this spring. I was wearing shorts and boots — bad mistake — and was covered from my knees down with a layer of pieces of vegetation. Some of it was poison ivy and my legs were an itchy mess for the next week or so.
Urushiol also stays in dead plants, so if you’re burning old vegetation or throwing your newly-cleaned mess on a pile to burn, beware. The oil can be inhaled or get into your eyes or on your skin via the smoke from the fire. Bad situation. Take care to cover up, and then wash thoroughly as Brauker suggests.
Washing up may not completely protect you 100 percent of the time, but getting the urushiol off your skin as soon as you can will certainly help. Y’all be careful out there this summer.
— Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor
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