Summer is officially here. Kids and adults will be spending more time outside playing games, working in the yard, participating in sports, camping, fishing, hiking or just soaking up some of that amazing sunshine. Unfortunately, being outdoors increases your risk of getting a nasty rash from that most horrible of plants, Poison Ivy. Poison ivy, as well as poison oak and poison sumac, produces a resin called urushiol which is found in all parts of the plant throughout the year and can remain active on dead and dried plants for up to five years.
However, if you know what to look for, Poison Ivy and Poison Oak can usually be avoided. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when you're out this summer:
You've probably heard some variation of the "Leaves of three? Let them be." Poison Ivy has three leaves on a long stem. The middle or terminal leaf usually has a longer stem with the two lateral leaves being slightly smaller in size. Poison ivy can grow as a vine, bush or single plant. Poison ivy can also have berries and flowers. The berries tend to be white or cream colored.
Fluid from poison ivy rashes (comprised mainly water) can not spread to other people or to other parts of your body.
However, touching the plant or touching anything which has touched the plant (clothing, tools, sports equipment and pets) can cause the allergic reaction. The uroshiol oil is essentially nonvolatile and can remain on articles and clothing for as much as a year.
If you have contaminated clothes, store them in a plastic garbage bag until you can wash them. Try not to touch them with bare skin. Wash the contaminated clothes in the hottest water available with detergent and in the longest cycle. It's also advised to use the largest cycle: uroshiol is oily and not easily water soluble. If you need more of an explanation than that, here's a good article.