The past three or four days have been a pain in the rash :o) On Monday or Tuesday, while pulling weeds in the garden area, or cutting up a fallen tree, I got a good case of poison ivy on my right knee and right hand (not to mention it that it was really hot and humid, so I unknowingly spread it to spots on my face, chest, and arms).
One of the downsides of living in the country is that there is poison ivy in them thar trees and bushes. I swear, if I just look at it I get poison ivy.
The picture at the left is: Poison Ivy in Summer.
Classic poison ivy in full swing. Some leaves are notched. Some leaves are not. New leaves are shiny and still somewhat reddish. Older leaves are duller.
Some not so fun facts :o)
How do you get poison ivy? From touching it, or touching something that has touched it, like your clothes or your dog. You normally get it from touching the leaves. I have not only rubbed up against it, but I have been splattered with sap from poison ivy when using a weed eater. The worst case I ever had was from when I was burning some brush, and inhaled the smoke. In that particular case, I did need to get some corticosteroid tablets to combat the systemic effect.
Why do you get poison ivy just from rubbing against the plant? There is an oil, called urushiol, that causes an allergic reaction after the first sensitizing exposure (my sensitizing exposure was when I was five and I played with my tonka trucks in it). The oil is in the leaves, vines, and roots. That's why tearing out the vine is so dangerous - it releases lots of urushiol. The oil from poison ivy is extremely stable and will stay potent - essentially forever. You can get a rash from clothing or tools that have the oil from last summer, or even from many years back. So if you don't remove the oil by washing, using alcohol to dissolve it, or by just hosing off with a hard spray from a hose - assume it will stay forever.
Poison Ivy Myth Buster: Once you have the rash the oil has been absorbed and you can't spread it to others or elsewhere on yourself. If you get big blisters filled with liquid it is mostly water and will not spread the rash even if they break.
If you want to learn more, or get grossed out by some wicked rash pictures, go to http://www.poison-ivy.org/index.htm.