Poison ivy is a vine or shrub that is part of the cashew family. It is harmful and grows in many parts of the United States and southern Canada. This plant is typically dragged around tree trunks or on the ground, although it sometimes grows like a shrub. There are several species, such as poison ivy, which grows in the northwest Pacific, and sumac, which grows in the eastern United States.
The tissues of these poisonous plants contain an oil, urushiol, similar to carbolic acid, which is extremely irritating to the skin. A person can be poisoned simply by taking off their shoes after going through poison ivy, or it can be contracted by other people, but only if the oil remains on their skin. Remember that it is not the rash that causes the infection, but the oil in the plant.
If someone comes in contact with the plant, wash the skin well, hoping to prevent the oil from entering and infecting the skin, causing a rash. If blisters appear, they are itchy and can be treated with calamine lotion, Epsom salts or baking soda. There is a vaccine that can be given by injection or orally; like most vaccines, it should be given before the person knows the plant.
Poison ivy can be identified quite easily. Its leaves are red in early spring, then turn bright green. They turn yellow, red or orange in the fall.
Each leaf consists of three leaves with serrated edges. Two of the leaflets form a pair, and the third leaf stands alone at the end of the stem. There are small green flowers that grow in groups on the main stem near where the leaves are. At the end of the season, poisonous berries appear. They are white and have a waxy appearance.
Poison ivy and oak are very common. It is difficult to eradicate them by chemical spraying or other means.