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These side branches are thin, often unbranched and may be up to 6 feet long. They come off the stem almost at right angles, and have a very characteristic appearance. The leaves can be alarmingly big, sometimes 12 inches wide an unnerving sight when encountered at head height along a trail. Clusters of small yellowish flowers are followed by small whitish berries. Poison ivy is native to North America, and present statewide in New York.
It is extremely common, especially when it grows as a ground cover. Thin woody stems run along the ground and become rooted in. Leaves grow on short slender upright shoots, often mixed in with grass. Poison ivy is especially common along edges of wooded areas, paths, and meadows. It prefers rich soils, good moisture and the partial shade of forest edges, but seems to be able to grow almost anywhere except on very dry hot sites.
It will however grow well on hot dry limestone outcrops.
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Since it is tolerant to salt spray it is common in beach areas, often growing in low patches on dunes. It is also tolerant of road salt, and is common in ditches and on roadsides. It climbs trees, buildings, fence posts, phone poles and rock outcrops. All parts of the plant contain a resinous oil called urushiol you-ROO-she-all , which is a potent allergen. Individuals differ in sensitivity. Usually a person has to be exposed at least once previously to become sensitized and develop an allergic reaction.
The typical skin reaction of an intensely itchy rash appears up to 24 hours after exposure. In some people, the rash progresses to severe blistering and may require steroid treatment. Your browser does not support iFrames. Navigation menu. For example, a common skin condition called psoriasis can be confused with a poison ivy rash. Psoriasis can cause a red rash with whitish-silver scales.
This rash can be itchy, and it may even crack and bleed. Psoriasis, unlike a poison ivy rash, will likely come back after it disappears.
Learn how to tell the difference between the two conditions so you can decide which you may be experiencing. You can usually treat the rash yourself at home.
Widespread poison ivy rashes may require treatment with a prescription corticosteroid. Rarely, you can also develop a bacterial infection at the rash site. If this happens, you may need a prescription antibiotic. Immediately wash any areas of your skin that might have touched the plant. This may help remove some of the oil and lessen the severity of your reaction. Also, be sure to wash the clothes you were wearing, along with anything that may have touched the plant. Taking an over-the-counter OTC antihistamine can help relieve itching and allow you to sleep more comfortably. Scratching the rash will only make things worse.
While it may bring immediate comfort, scratching will only prolong symptoms. You may even develop an infection if you break the skin, causing itching to intensify.
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Take frequent warm baths in water containing an oatmeal product or apply cool, wet compresses to help relieve the itch. Some home remedies can help reduce irritation and itching while the rash is healing. These include:. Organic compounds from peppermint have a cooling effect on irritated skin. You can buy OTC products with this ingredient, or you can make your own with peppermint essential oils.
Be sure to dilute the essential oil in a lotion or oil so it does not irritate the sensitive skin. Several other essential oils, including calendula, chamomile, and eucalyptus may be helpful for reducing symptoms of poison ivy rash.
Learn more about these oils and how to use them on irritated skin. The soothing burn treatment can also relieve itching and inflammation in skin affected by a poison ivy rash. Oatmeal baths are a popular home treatment for skin rashes and conditions. The finely ground oats can coat the skin and relieve itching temporarily. A liquid product of the Hamamelis virginiana plant, witch hazel may ease itching, swelling, and burning on irritated skin. Apple cider vinegar is a popular alternative poison ivy treatment.
It can, however, be spread in a few other scenarios. For example, a pet that encounters poison ivy leaves can carry the urushiol oil in its fur. When you touch the animal, you may pick up the oil and develop a rash.
If you touch poison ivy with a pair of pants or shirt and do not wash it after contact is made, you could develop another rash if you touch the clothing. You can also spread the oil to another person, if they come into contact with clothes that have touched poison ivy. You may notice, however, that the rash develops over the course of several days.
Poison ivy rashes can grow slowly, which may give the appearance of spreading. But a rash will only occur on areas of the skin that came into contact with the urushiol oil. Learn more about what these objects could be and what you can do to avoid sharing the oil with yourself or others again.
About 85 percent of Americans are allergic to poison ivy. These people will experience mild, but irritating, symptoms, such as a red rash, itching, and swelling. Of those who are allergic, about 10 to 15 percent will have a severe reaction. They may develop fluid-filled blisters that become infected. Infants and toddlers can also develop a poison ivy rash.
It may take several hours or days for the rash to fully develop. In severe cases, the child may also develop blisters. Instead, try learning what poison ivy looks like. This way you can work to avoid contact. As with many other perennial plants, poison ivy changes with the seasons. The leaves of the poison ivy plant are green in the summer, but can turn red, orange, or yellow in the spring and fall.
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