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Poison Ivy: What You Need to Know

Is camping a summer ritual for you and your family? Perhaps you’ll be heading to the local state park for the weekend, or have a longer, more adventurous trek planned. Whatever your camping plans may be, don’t forget to pack one very important thing: your knowledge about poison ivy! Keep reading to find out more about this menacing plant.

Is camping a summer ritual for you and your family? Perhaps you’ll be heading to the local state park for the weekend, or have a longer, more adventurous trek planned. Whether you’ll be traveling five miles or five hundred miles to your campground of choice, you’re bound to bring the same necessities: tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, battery powered daiquiri blender (OK – I know that’s not just me!), s’mores supplies, etc.

But one other very important thing you should be certain to pack is your knowledge about poison ivy!

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to encounter poison ivy, you know how uncomfortable and even painful it can be. And if you haven’t yet had that experience, well, you’re one lucky camper!

Let’s take a closer look at this menacing plant –how to avoid it . . . and how to treat it if that doesn’t work.

What is Poison Ivy?
Poison Ivy is a weed-like plant that can be found growing wild in most parts of the United States and can cause a severe allergic reaction and a rash in over 50 percent of all people who come into contact with it.

Poison Ivy is characterized by its three leaves (the rhyme “leaves of three, let it be” is a direct reference and warning to avoid the plant). Poison ivy produces an oily resin called urushiol that is spread when its leaves or roots comes into contact with the skin (either directly or by touching something that the plant has touched, such as your clothing, shoes, gardening tools or a pet). Contact with the plant results in an itchy rash that appears one or two days later and gradually worsens and spreads, producing small blisters as it does so. Generally, a poison ivy breakout clears up in a week, but in extreme cases, it can last longer.

Treatment Options
Regardless of the duration, poison ivy can be incredibly annoying and nerve-wracking. If despite your best efforts you’ve come down with a bad reaction, try these remedies:

Calamine Lotion. Good old-fashioned calamine lotion can relieve the itching sensation and soothe angry skin.

Antihistamines. Sold over-the-counter, these pills can reduce poison ivy swelling and inflammation.

Goldenseal. This natural anti-inflammatory can be dabbed directly onto affected areas or made into a tea.

Oatmeal. Eating it can heal the rash from the inside out, but it’s also a good idea to take a warm bath with the soothing grain added to the mix.

Hydrocortisone Creams. An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, it goes right on the rash to reduce redness and swelling.

You should be able to treat poison ivy yourself, but call a doctor if the rash doesn’t go away after a week or spreads over large areas of your skin; if the rash gets into your eyes, nose and mouth; if you develop a fever; and if the blisters begin to ooze or produce pus.

Camping is supposed to a good time, right? Well, then, don’t let poison ivy ruin your fun. Take precautions to avoid this nasty plant and you’ll be a happy camper for many camping trips to come!

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