Poison Ivy Is Having A Great Year

Poison ivy is growing faster than ever. That’s not the bad news. The tormentingly toxic plant is also packing more rash-inducing resins than ever. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, of global warming fame, is the cause.

Plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen. More CO2 leads to happier plants. Because of increased CO2, trees now grow about 10% larger. Poison ivy now grows nearly 150% larger. This is because vines love CO2, which leads to larger-than-ever poison ivy plants. If you’re allergic to poison ivy as I am, then the risk of running into the virulent vine is greater than ever.

But it’s football season, and crisp nights mean the poison ivy growing season is nearly over. So, you’re safe, right? Wrong. You might think you’re less likely to get poison ivy in the fall. I used to think that too until I learned the hard way.

When I was in college I worked as a landscaper to pay my rent. Every fall, without exception, I got my worst poison ivy rash of the year. For a guy who could spot poison ivy at 100 yards in the dark, it always surprised me.

The reason is that the poison in poison ivy stays active long after the leaves fall and plant is dead. When you think you’re raking maple and oak leaves, you often don’t realize you’ve got fallen poison ivy leaves mixed in, like a dye-pack in a stack of $100 bills waiting to explode when you touch it. Fortunately for me there are no leaves to rake in downtown San Diego.

What’s the worst case of poison ivy you’ve had?

Do you have any home remedies for treating poison ivy?

Have you noticed more poison ivy this year?

Photo: Steve and Sarah Emry

5 thoughts on “Poison Ivy Is Having A Great Year”

  1. Kathryn Fenner says:

    As a girl, I apparently sat in it wearing shorts and also somehow got it to my face. I still have a faint scar on my inner thigh.

    The best home remedy (after taking Benadryl and, if needed, Atarax) is soaking in a colloidal oatmeal bath (Aveeno or generic) and dabbing it with calamine lotion!

  2. I’ve had some really nasty rashes on my legs and ankles. The worst was when I went to bed without changing socks and all night while I was scratching I was spreading the oil. I’ve gotten better about prevention since then.

    1. Don’t go in the woods if you can help it. Stay on cleared paths while hiking. Learn what poison ivy (or poison oak, on the west coast) looks like, and if you see it, don’t go near it. There are a lot of plants that look similar to it, such as wild blackberry vines. If in doubt, don’t touch it.

    2. Get Ivy Block from a pharmacy, and spread a thin layer on your legs if you think you might be encountering poison ivy. It creates a barrier that keeps the oil off your skin. Spray deodorants and some sunblocks can also help this way, but you have to put it on before contact with poison ivy.

    3. Get Tecnu. You can buy small bottles in pharmacies, or big bottles online. If you get into poison ivy, you can use Tecnu to wash it off and help keep the rash from being too bad. It works best to wash with it within an hour of contact, but it will do some good even several hours later.

    4. After contact, wash your clothes as soon as you can. Rinse shoes with running water. Try to prevent cross contamination.

    In my experience, after getting the rash, I’ve just had to wait it out. Calamine lotion and oatmeal baths didn’t help. Some people like to use heat, like blowing the rash with a hair dryer to make the itching stop temporarily, but I’ve never had good luck with that either. The best is to not get the rash in the first place.

  3. Though I was exposed often as a child, I never got it. At the age of 62, while raking and clearing some ground, I apparently pulled on some bare vines (not knowing that they were poison ivy. I foolishly had shorts on, and the rash on my legs was unbearable. I have it in my yard now, and I will not go near it!

  4. For those who end up getting poison ivy sap on you, there ARE some things your doctor can do to help. A 2-3 week course of oral steroids (prednisone) is the currently accepted treatment. The time course is long enough to make sure you don’t get recurrance (make sure your doctor prescribes a 2-3 week course – 3-5 days won’t cut it, and is a common mistake made by non-dermatologists), but it is also short enough that you will not get the side effects associated with steroids.

  5. sleeplessanxiety says:

    I got the worst case of poison ivy while cleaning up the back yard of my rental. I noticed the next morning my eyes were itching and swelling so I went to the doctor. The doc gave me a shot and a script for prednisone three pills and day for three then two for three and so on…on the second day there were two small spots on my arm. By day five I had my doubts about the prednisone helping.

    By day five of the poison ivy had spread on both arms are were about 30 covered. My eyes were swollen and the itching was getting worse. I had been applying hydrocortisone but it seemed to make it worse and the redness increased so I stopped.

    I used ice packs for temporary relief until I realized I had some Tinactin spray in my bathroom. I sprayed it on my arms and it gave instant relief. I even covered my eyes with cotton balls and sprayed on the affect parts of my cheeks. DO NOT spray directly around your eyes. You could also apply it to a cloth and spread it around to be safe.

    Tiactin was the only thing that worked for me. It dried up the affected areas to speed the healing.

    Also, I read that you should take 6000 mg of vitamin C so I started that a day four. I would recommend that as well for a speedy recovery.

    Good luck!

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