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Leaves of three, let them be—tips
for treating & preventing Poison Ivy

Knowing what poison ivy looks like just might save you a
couple weeks of serious discomfort; help better prepare
yourself for the outdoors this summer.

What is poison ivy and what does it look like? 
Poison ivy is a plant found throughout most of North America, that contains an oil on its leaves called urushiol. Urushiol can cause a rash on humans. Poison ivy can grow between two to four feet tall, but can also appear as groundcover, shrub, and vine as opposed to the traditional stalk. Poison ivy is a shiny green during the summer months but turns a red shade in the fall. The leaves of poison ivy grow in groups of three, hence the common phrase “leaves of three, let it be; or one, two, three—don't touch me”. 

What are the symptoms of poison ivy and what does a poison ivy rash look like?
The biggest symptom that poison ivy can cause is a rash. This rash may appear with redness, itching, swelling and blistering at the contact location. The rash typically appears as a straight line, due to the way the plant touches the skin. However, the rash can also appear in different shapes if the urushiol oil is spread by touch.  

How can I prevent getting poison ivy?
The first major step in prevention is understanding the difference between poison ivy and other similar green plants. When participating in outdoor activities where poison ivy may be encountered stay on paths and refrain from touching poison ivy. If you think you, or a pet may have been exposed to poison ivy, make sure to immediately wash the contact location. Wearing extra clothes that cover exposed skin will also help. In addition, there are over the counter medical creams that can be worn that reduce the effects of urushiol. 

How do I treat poison ivy?
Poison ivy typically goes away in two to three weeks without the need of medication. If the rash is extensively bothersome, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids. Other treatments include using Benadryl or taking a cool, wet cloth to the rash spot for fifteen to thirty minutes several times a day. If the rash has become infected, oral antibiotics may be prescribed.  

When should a doctor be contacted?
A doctor should be contacted if the rash has spread to the genitals or face, the reaction is severe or if the rash doesn’t improve within several weeks. A doctor should be contacted if the rash begins to puss or if the rash causes a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Contact a doctor if you have inhaled burning poison ivy as it is likely that the urushiol is in the lungs. 

Poison Ivy Handout

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