Cathy Clark, Kenlake State Resort Park recreation coordinator, said the rule for identifying poison ivy is 'Leaves of three, let it be.' Poison ivy sports three leaves per stem, with one smooth edge, and the other with a saw-toothed appearance.
After some summer yard work or an outdoor outing, a painful, itchy rash could be linked to poison ivy exposure.
Dr. John Cecil of Lourdes Redicare said the rash may appear within 24 to 48 hours after exposure. The rash may have redness, bumps and watery blisters, and may come in streaks appearing in the shape of a branch or vine. Anyone suffering from poison ivy will say the rash comes with intense itching.
“The rash comes from an allergic reaction to the resin in the plant,” Cecil said. “It can be present in smoke from burned poison ivy or transferred from pets and contaminated surfaces. (Monday) we had one patient come in with poison ivy on her arms. Her husband works in an orchard. We concluded she got it from washing his clothes that brushed against poison ivy plants. You can get it without direct contact.”
Without medical treatment, a poison ivy rash may last up to two weeks. A rash cannot be spread from one human to another once the plant resin is washed off. Cecil advised patients to seek medical care if the rash was on the face, or impeded quality of life. During summer months, his office treats three to five cases on an average day. Poison ivy contact may occur year round.
“Over-the-counter treatments like Calamine are just going to let people know you have poison ivy. Topical steroids may help, but topical antihistamines may offer little relief. Oral antihistamines may provide some relief, but some patients may need oral steroids from the doctor,” Cecil said.
Amber Youngblood, director of marketing and public relations for the American Red Cross in Louisville, provided steps to care for a patient with suspected poison ivy exposure. The first step is removing and washing contaminated clothing with gloves, and washing the affected area of the skin with soap and water. Hands should also be washed. Next, apply a paste of baking soda and water if a rash or weeping sore begins to develop. If the condition worsens, contact a health care practitioner.
Cathy Clark, recreation program coordinator at Kenlake State Resort Park, said she sees guests with poison ivy at least twice a month. To prevent poison ivy, she encourages guests to stay on marked and maintained trails and to know what they are looking for.
“Here, poison ivy can be a bush or a vine,” Clark said. “Our rule is ‘leaves of three, let it be,’ because poison ivy has three leaves. It’s smooth on one side and jagged on the other, like teeth.”
Clark encouraged all to wear long pants when outdoors, wear gloves when handling firewood, and to avoid wiping hands on the face.
“There is now a poison ivy wash that removes poison ivy before a reaction occurs,” Clark said. “When I’ve been out in the woods and think I could I have been in contact with poison ivy, I use the wash to help prevent a rash and wash it off of me.”
Contact Alan Reed, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8658.SNbS