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Print

Poison ivy can be identified by its three leaves with jagged edges. Photos by Chris Young.

Arm yourself against poison ivy

June 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM

The State Journal-Register

Leaves of three, let it be.

Those are six words to live by during the summer months for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.

Those three leaves belong to poison ivy, a native plant that can cause itching, irritation and blisters on the skin of those who come in contact with the oil from bruised leaves or stems.

When the oil, known as urushiol, gets on the skin, it can cause an allergic reaction.

Poison ivy’s relatives poison oak and poison sumac are less likely to be found in Illinois.

10 things to know about poison ivy:

1. Know how to recognize poisonous plants. Poison ivy can appear as a vine climbing high in a tree, creep along the ground, or appear as a small shrub.

2. Poison ivy leaves have three leaflets, often with irregular edges. Watch for it on the ground, at the edge of trails and with Virginia creeper, another vine that looks similar but has five leaflets.



Poison ivy sometimes occurs together with Virginia creeper.


3. Also avoid poison oak which has three lobed leaves. It occurs in dry, sandy habitats mostly in the western United States.

Poison sumac has a leaf with seven to 13 leaflets. Poison sumac is found in bogs and bottomland areas.

Poison ivy is the plant mostly likely to be encountered in central Illinois.

4. The oil has to penetrate the skin before dermatitis sets in. Wash the area of contact immediately to minimize the effects.

5. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and shoes or boots with socks outdoors. Wear gloves while clearing brush or working in the yard.

6. You can get poison ivy at any time of year. Deer hunters hanging tree stands where poison ivy vines are present on tree trunks should be especially careful.

7. A person also can be exposed indirectly by handling tools or clothing that have been in contact with poison ivy. Wash clothing separately.

8. It can be especially dangerous to inhale urushiol from plants that have been burned or mowed. Take care when mowing areas where poison ivy occurs.

9. Symptoms include red rash within a few days, bumps, patches or “weeping” blisters, swelling and itching.

10. A variety of products are available in drugstores to help dry poison ivy blisters. If the blisters are especially large or a fever develops, see a doctor.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Park Service office of public health.

Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at twitter.com/ChrisYoungPSO.

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