Poison Ivy and Poison Oak can be found in every state in the United States except Hawaii and Alaska. It grows in wooded areas and underbrush in fencerows. Everyone has heard of poison ivy and poison oak but not everyone knows what it looks like until it’s too late.
The easiest way to identify poison ivy and poison oak plants is to look at its leaves. Both poison ivy and poison oak grow a central leaf with two shoots on the side. The leaves and stems can vary from green to red depending on the season but otherwise blend right into the natural environment. Both plants can grow as a shrub or as a vine.
People come into contact with poison ivy when they are working in wooded areas or trying to clear vines off of a tree. Poison ivy, oak, and poison sumac all contain a chemical called urushiol that can adhere to the skin in less than 30 minutes. Urushiol causes a severe allergic reaction in 85% of people which consists of a rash and blisters that can take weeks to clear up.
You can also contract poison ivy from clothes, tools, and pets who have come into contact with urushiol.
If you’ve come into contact with any of these plants it can take hours or days for the rash to emerge, so don’t think you’re in the clear just because you don’t feel any symptoms yet. But if you are unfortunate enough to inhale urushiol through the burning of poison ivy-covered logs then you are in for a different sort of pain.
More severe reactions can occur if urushiol is burned and inhaled. This can cause rashes all over the body, in the mouth, lips, and even down your throat which can constrict airways and make it hard to breathe.
Usually, a symptom from air-borne urushiol inhaled as smoke. It can cause eyes to be tender, swell shut, and even impair your vision.
As the smoke envelopes you, you can literally get poison ivy over all your exposed body parts. Your clothes will become contaminated and can spread the rash to anyone you touch. Depending on the amount you inhale symptoms can come in the form of rashes and blisters in your mouth and throat to fatal respiratory difficulty.
Just like with a cold, a fever will develop as your immune system struggles to fight off the foreign toxin.
If you think you or someone you know exhibits the symptoms of having inhaled burning poison ivy or oak, seek medical attention immediately.
After identifying poison ivy by sight or by using an app like iNaturally or PlantSnap you should remove it immediately. Remember to wear protective clothing and know that after you are done you must wash everything. Start by spraying it. Within a week, the poison ivy should die, then manually and carefully pull the plant from the tree. Remember that urushiol is still present in the plant and on the tree.
Do not burn, mulch, or compost poison ivy. Instead, place it in garbage bags and leave it for the garbage truck.
If you need help with lawn service, fire ants, or tree and shrub care call us at Environmental Turf Management.