Many people get into trouble with poison ivy because they do not know what it looks like or how to treat it. It is not actually ivy, which is where some get confused. It is a type of vine that is very woody and grows low to the ground. Any contact with it, no matter how brief, will probably cause a rash. Some people are naturally immune to the effects of the compound it produces that irritates skin, but most are not.
It grows in Canada, the United States, and Mexico and is almost unheard of anywhere more to the south or east. The woods are the most usual local for the plant, especially near the edges of forests where sunlight is more prominent. That said, do not be surprised to see it in meadows, on lawns, or even in rocky terrain. It really grows almost anywhere which is why it is so tricky. Any amount of sunlight and water in the soil is good enough for the plant.
You should learn to recognize this plant if you intend on spending any time outside. It looks completely innocuous, so you may never know you are standing right in it. The leaves are really three leaflets in a bunch. They are almond shaped and do not have teeth. The color ranges from light green to dark green in spring and summer and then it turns reddish in the fall.
Each bundle comes in an alternating pattern on the vine. You may note that the leaves are slightly shiny, which is the substance the plant makes which gives you such discomfort if you come in to contact with it. It is also a plant that produces a fruit, which many people do not realize. There is often a small gray or white berry on the plant.
A great way to tell if a plant you see is safe or not is to look at the stem or vine. These vines have reddish hair like protrusions the whole length. Often you may not notice them because they climb up trees and you could think it is part of the bark. All tree climbers should be aware. One might also notice that the leaves themselves will have a single notch on one side which makes it look like a mitten.
Do your research. There are tons of other tips to help you identify the plants. Many rhymes are taught to children for easy memorization. One interesting tip is that butterflies are often drawn to the plant and have no reaction to the itchy substance. If you see a butterfly land on a plant you may worry is poison ivy, stay away from it.
Now that you understand all about the looks of ivy, you should learn how to treat the rash if you accidentally stumble across some. It is an experience most people will go through at least once in their lives, given how commonly it grows in the summer. If you experience anything more than a rash, go to the hospital. Severe allergies could shut down your respiratory system or cause black outs.
Do not scratch at all and keep your hands washed. If you got it on your hands, do not touch any unaffected part of your body because you can spread the rash around easily. Anti-itch creams are the best bet to soothe you. Some have found that taking oatmeal baths reduces the itching, just like it does with the chicken pox.
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