Scientists are pointing out that urushiol oil, a chemical in poison ivy is responsible for the infamous rashes caused by the plant.
There are quite a few pesky plants out there, that cause us itches, burns, rashes and allergies and effectively ruin out relationship with nature. Most of them look absolutely inoffensive, like the common nettle that can be found in many yards, forests and even parks. It’s not a plant that catches your eye in any way, but upon touching it, you definitely take notice, because the skin that was brushed by the nettle will immediately begin to itch and sting.
However, there is an indisputable winner when it comes to pesky plants and that is the poison ivy. It causes severe rashes and an abundance of blisters, that are painful and that can easily leave scars if they are treated improperly. The lesions associated with poison ivy almost look like a chemical burns and scientists have revealed why.
It seems that there is a specific chemical that is contained in the root, stem and leaves of the poison ivy, called urushiol oil, that is responsible for all the lesions. Unlike other irritating plants, poison ivy is a smooth operator, because the lesions do not appear consecutive to the contact between the skin and the leaves, or any other part of the plant.
The key condition that determines the lesions to appear is that some part of the plant be broken, so that the urushiol oil can be spread on the skin. Furthermore, the lesions don not appear immediately, this is what makes it different from a chemical burn. It could be quite a few days before the rashes and the blisters debut. This period depends on whether or not a person was exposed to the chemical before or not.
In naive individuals, meaning those people who have never come in contact with urushiol oil, it takes longer for the effects to turn up. It could be as long as ten days before any signs of rashes and blisters appear. But from there on, upon the second contact with urushiol oil and those that follow, it only takes about one or two days before the corrosive effects kick in.
Therefore it is extremely important to know how to spot poison ivy, so as to keep safe from the horrible lesions associated with it. There are quite a few rimes and limericks that have been helping people remember the defining qualities of this otherwise unimpressive plant.
One of them is “Leaves of three, let it be, because, as you can see in the picture above, poison ivy displays clusters of three leaflets (the small leafy components of the plant), that are positioned in a T position, which brings us to the second limerick, “Longer middle stem, stay away from them”. Clusters of three leaflets of various ages can be found along the stem of the plant.
“Berries white, danger in sight” refers to the fruit of the plant that. These are small round white berry-like fruit, that can be found in clusters of 10 or more along the plant.
“Red leaves in spring, it’s a dangerous thing” points out to the fact that poison ivy is different from what we are used to see in the coloration of plants, because its leaves are not red in the autumn, as we are used to see, but rather the opposite. Poison ivy leaves are red in the spring and green in summertime. Also, the young leaves display reddish margins, that fade away as they grow.
These limericks are easy to remember and they can be of great use, in order to avoid the infamous poison ivy and its toxic touch. Also, it is crucial not to break the plant, as this is the point when the exposed skin comes into contact with the urushiol oil, that causes to the lesions.
Specialists warn about the classic activities around poison ivy that lead to contact. The most common occurrence is when people go hiking and chose to dress inappropriately. Shorts and sandals leave the skin exposed to the urushiol oil the pours from the broken poison ivy plants that lie under the hiker’s feet. This is one of a great many reasons why people should always wear long trousers and closed footwear when they go hiking.
Also, when poison ivy is found in yards, it is very dangerous to stay near yard waste fires because the urushiol oil is released along with the smoke. Therefore, when a person comes into contact with the smoke, the symptoms begin to appear.
However, in the event that people get tricked by the pesky poison ivy, it is very important to know how to treat it in the beginning. Firstly, the region that contains the lesions should be kept clean at all times, so as to avoid infections. This implies that the person washes the affected region with mild soap and clean water.
Secondly, over the counter topic medication should be applied on the affected region. This means corticosteroid creams, that can be found in any drug store. These will reduce the itching considerably and they will reduce the inflammation of the skin. Dermatologists also recommend camomile lotion, for its calming effect on the skin.
In the event that the symptoms are severe, such as extreme itching that does not respond to topic medication or very large or very many blisters, it is recommended that the person seeks the help of a dermatologist as soon as possible.
All in all, it is best to avoid contact with the poison ivy all together. Therefore, remembering the limericks will help you keep away from the toxic touch of this green foe.
Image Source: metroparks.com