Poison ivy — while not typically dangerous, it is annoying and acrid when come in contact with. About 75 percent of the U.S. population contract dermatitis from interaction with the plant. While physicians can prescribe a corticosteroid to relieve the itchy rash, there are a number of ways to avoid the dreaded itch.

Recognition

The saying goes, “Leaves of three, let them be.” The very catchy phrase is perfect when approaching groups of foliage. Being able to recognize the plant is the first step in reducing the chance of contact. The three leaves is a general rule of thumb, as many ivy strands vary in appearance depending on the location. If you’re not sure what poison ivy looks like in your area, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service website to find out.

How it begins

The reaction from the plant is actually from the skin coming into contact with the plant’s oil. The urushiol oil is found in the flowers, stem, leaves and roots. It doesn’t take much to cause a reaction, but more importantly, they can remain active after the plant dies.

A rash generally appears 12 to 72 hours after contact with the plant or any object that has been exposed to the oil. This is due to the oil being absorbed and metabolized. Although the rash is not necessarily contagious, if the oil is transferred between skin to skin contact, the other person may suffer a rash as well.

Prevention

Once you’ve identified the ivy, it is important to alert others of your find in order to better stop the accidental spread of the oil. If you’re thinking about clearing out poison ivy there are a few things you should be sure to do. Lessen the chance of contact by wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves. More importantly, wash off all garden equipment used and remove clothing.

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