Camping trips can become quite unpleasurable, or even come to an abrupt halt, due to one little plant.
Toxicodendron Radicans. The dreaded Poison Ivy plant, is a member of the Sumac family and not a member of the Ivy family. The generic name derives from the Greek word Toxikos meaning poison,and Dendron meaning tree.
This plant and other members of the Sumac family produce a skin irritant called Urushiol pronounced (yoo-roo-she-all) and can cause a severe allergic reaction.
Knowing and identifying this plant is the best defense against it, so when you see it, you can avoid it!
I'm focusing on mainly poison ivy here, and not poison oak or sumac because this plant is what is more prevalent in the midwest. Although poison oak and sumac will grow here, its not as widespread.
Poison ivy can grow as a shrub or a vine or as a single creeping plant. The pointed leaves grow in pairs of three on a stem (same as poison oak). We;ve all heard the rhyme "Leaves of three, Let it be!" Two opposite from each other and one on top. The leaves can have smooth edges or can have one to three lobes on each side. Smooth on the top of the leaf. Sometimes shiny (and ooooh watch out for these!) This usually means the plant was bent, broken or harmed in some way to excrete its urushiol. And thats what you don't want to get on your skin.
Poison ivy is light green with a little red around the edges in the spring, darker green in the summer, and red with orange in the fall.
Urushiol can get on clothes or even animal fur, so when you get a chance, wash your clothes and your pet. It would be safe to use gloves while doing this.
If you get poison ivy on you, You might not know it right away. It could take hours for your skin to react. Then it will itch, and burn. Sever cases can enclude blistering, and swelling, and fever.
To treat this, wash the infected area immediatly. Do not scratch! Urushiol can get under your fingernails and can further spread the infection. Apply a cream, such as Tecnu http://www.basspro.com/Tecnu-Extreme-Medicated-Poison-Ivy-Scrub/product/1302130601388/ which contains Propylene Glycol, and deodorized mineral spirits. Tecnu spray http://www.basspro.com/Tecnu-Outdoor-Skin-Cleanser/product/1302130601387/ containing Glycerine, and Calomine loation can help extract the oil from your skin. You can apply a cold compress to help with the burning. Sometimes a antihistamine will work. but take only as directed as this could may matters worse.
If it becomes severe, then see a doctor!
While in the woods, try to wear long pants and long thick socks. A long sleeved shirt too! If venturing off the trails, then gloves would be a good idea! Dont touch any plants unless you know what they are.
85% of adults get an allergec reaction to Urushiol. 15% are less likly to have an allergec reaction. Although repeated exposures can make you more sensitive to it.
If you happen to stumble upon poison ivy, or poison oak, while camping. Remember "Leaves of three. Let it be!" Do not harvest it and burn it. Urushiol can be carried through the smoke and land on your skin, or get in your eyes, or you may even inhale the nasty stuff!
So best to to leave it alone and avoid it altogether!
And as if these were'nt enough! Theres another obnoxcious plant that can wreak havok on campers.
Poisin Nettles can have the same itching and burning effect on the skin. The difference is that this plant has microscopic needles, that punchure the skin, injecting Serotonin, Acetylcholine, and Histamine. When you encounter this, you will know right away! Ouch!
The genus Urticaceae has about thirtyfive different spieces. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall throughout the United States. The leaves are somewhat oval and come to a point. The edges of the leafs are serrated with the needles growing about the stem, and can be under the leafs.
Theres good news! (sort of). If you get "stung" the pain won't last as long as with poison ivy, oak,or sumac. The treatment, and releaf is usually much faster. If you can see the fine hairs of the nettles protruding from your skin, you can use tape to help pull them out. Then apply hydrogen peroxide. Mix baking soda and water to make a paste and apply to the infected area. This should give you a little comfort. You may also use a cream with antihistamine or hydrocortizone. Also you can use calomine loation. If you can find Jewelweed you can crush the stem and rub onto the infected area.Usually the relief is instant!
Jewelweed usually grows around the same area as poison nettles. It grows up to five feet tall. The leaves are entire and shiny, and most plants will have flowers that hang from them.This plant can give relief to poison ivy, and poison oak, and sumac as well.
Remember to check out the area for these plants before setting up camp. You may save yourself from a lot of agony. And be prepared with an assortment of medications, just in case you encounter these dreaded poisonous plants!