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Nurse Tip: Poison Ivy

You’re gonna need an ocean
Of calamine lotion
You’ll be scratchin’ like a hound
The minute you start to mess around
Poison iv-y-y-y-y, poison iv-y-y-y

— “Poison Ivy” by The Coasters

Now that Spring might finally be under way, we all need to be aware of a threat in our garden that is growing more common.

Poison ivy, also known as Toxicodendron radicans, is a poisonous vine or shrub. It is commonly found in wooded areas east of the Rocky Mountains in North America.

The toxin, found in the sap of the vine, can cause an itchy rash with blisters. This rash is often mild and can be treated at home. If you have a mild case of poison ivy, be sure to gently wash the area with soapy lukewarm water. Apply calamine lotion or over the counter cortizone cream and take an antihistimine pill. Repeat the lotion and the pill as directed on the containers.

Be sure to wash your clothes and anything that might have touched the sap. Although it is generally believed that poison ivy spreads if you scratch it, the spreading actually is caused by further exposure to the sap on different areas of the body through clothes, garden tools, and even pets. Luckily, pets themselves aren’t affected by the toxin in the vine.

If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, your face becomes swollen (especially if an eye swells shut), the rash covers most of your body, or nothing can ease the itch, go to the emergency room immediately.

Due to global climate change, poison ivy is becoming more widespread in North America as well as more toxic. If you notice poison ivy in your yard, keep yourself and your pets away. If you must handle it to remove it, make sure you are wearing heavy gloves, long pants, and long sleeves. Don’t wipe your face with your gloves and be sure to wash or discard anything that touches the vine.

Don’t be “scratchin’ like a hound.” Keep away from poison ivy!