07 April 2006

Poison Ivy and its Rash!

As spring gets into full swing, many people will be out
in their gardens digging around, or moving brush, and doing
other general clean-up chores. In other words, taking part
in activities that could expose them to poison ivy plants --
either new growth, or the old, dried plant material from last
year's cycle.

Be careful, and take precautions. Wear work gloves, and wash
up with strong soap after your activities -- change your socks,
as you may have walked through the plant material. Now, I don't
want to make anyone paranoid, as chances are remote that you'll
be exposed to it. And, if you are, you might very well have a
high tolerance to it. My father could rub poison ivy leaves over
his arms, and go away laughing about it.

Learn to identify poison ivy. There are several varieties; but,
mainly, you can identify the plant by its three leaves -- in
some cases, groups of three leaves -- and by the fact that there
is a small notch or indentation on the edge of some of the leaves.
While there are many plants with three leaves or leaflets, the
notch or indentation is a pretty good indication of poison ivy.

Never try to burn the plant! The chemicals in the smoke can go
in your pores, and cause poison ivy rash. Also, if your dog, for
example, rolls in the plants or old, dry leaves, you can catch
it by petting your dog. I caught it once, while on a canoe trip.
It lasts for a week to ten days, although poison ivy can remain
in the blood for up to ten years, causing minor periodic outbreaks
of itching. In my case, a small pimple would appear on one of
my fingers, and would itch badly, for several days. This continued,
occasionally, for about seven years.

Oh yes, you can be very susceptible to it, if you're perspiring;
for instance, if you're doing heavy manual labour in hot weather.
I caught it while pulling my canoe through a rocky, low water area
of a stream. It was a hot, July day, and I was perspiring profusely.
I didn't realize that the banks of the stream were populated with
the ivy plants. Soon afterwards, I learned how to identify the plant!

The Mi'kmaq used sweet fern leaves to treat poison ivy rash. The
leaves were steeped or boiled in water, and the resulting concoction
used to bath the effected area. This is a good remedy to know, in the
event that one is camping in an isolated area, without recourse to
medical treatment. For the most part, the best one can do is gain
some relief for the itch, and to allow it to run its course. Mind
you, I personally feel there are some plant remedies that can
be used to shorten its duration.

All the best!


ladytrapper said...

The "touch me not"(jewelweed) plant which often grows along side poison ivy is a natural cure for the "itch" of poison ivy.
Break open the stems for the aloevera-like gel inside and rub on affected area for relief.
I make a salve out of "touch me nots" and it is great for dry itchy skin, burns and insect bites also !!