Camping World

How To Identify Poison Ivy


Whether you are in an RV, cabin in the woods, or a tent, camping is a great way to get out into nature and enjoy what this great country has to offer. Hiking, nature trails or just sitting around a campfire enjoying family and friends is second to none.

Not everything in the great outdoors is friendly though. You sometimes have to deal with rude or inconsiderate neighbors or problems at your site like being unlevel or rocky. There is also severe weather that may pop up. See my series on severe weather for more information on bad weather and camping. I have placed the links to the weather series below. What about animals? We were camping one time years ago sitting around a campfire when a skunk just wandered into our site!!!

Camping And Flash Flooding

Camping In Thunderstorms

Camping In Hurricanes

More than likely when you are in the great outdoors you kind of expect and watch for weather issues, animal problems, and site problems. What about vegetation? Are you ready and prepared for that? Just about everyone knows to look out for ticks but what about poison plants? Ever heard of poison ivy? I bet if you have ever had a reaction to it you are aware of it. On the rare and extreme end, it could even cause death!!! Anyone with severe enough allergies that have to carry epi-pens due to possible anaphylaxis knows about that.

So what is poison ivy? Poison ivy which is not actually ivy is a plant found just about anywhere in North America. Its sap is a clear liquid that can cause an itchy, irritating, and sometimes painful rash in a lot of people that touch it.

How Do I Get Poison Ivy?

There are many different ways to contract poison ivy but the bottom line is you must come in contact with the oily resin from the plant to get poison ivy. I used to think that the blisters that you get on your skin once popped could spread the poison ivy effects throughout your body. After researching many sites I have learned that is not correct. Only the plant oil spreads the rash.

If you constantly scratch the infected area, you could possibly have dirt or bacteria under your fingernails and that can cause an infection to enter your wound (popped blister) area.

The Oil Is Super Sticky

The oil from the plant is extremely sticky and easily attaches to your skin. Some ways you can get the oil on you is to come in direct contact with the plant leaves, stem, roots, or berries of the plant. If you are out hiking or just out for a walk and the oil from the plant comes into contact with your shoes, shirt, jacket or anything else you are wearing and you later touch that item, guess what? Yup, you’ve got poison ivy. Make sure if you think you have come into contact with poison ivy you wash whatever item came in contact with it.

Many times while camping people want to have a campfire. After all, who doesn’t like smores? Many campers walk around and collect small sticks for kindling to get their fire started. If they happen to get some poison ivy in their kindling it will burn and the smoke from that fire can cause harm to your lungs and nasal passages. Be very careful collecting that kindling…lol.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

Poison Ivy Plant
Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia

What Should You Do If You Have Come In Contact With Poison Ivy?

The only thing you can do once you have come in contact with poison ivy is washing the area thoroughly with soap and water. Doing this could possibly reduce your chances of getting the rash. If you are highly sensitive to it you can still wash the area to reduce the effects but you will probably get some effects anyway.

If you have come in contact with poison ivy and already have a rash, you can use products such as the one listed above to ease the itching and pain.

What Are Some Symptoms Of Poison Ivy?

A poison ivy rash could include some/all of the following symptoms:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Blisters
  • If you have inhaled smoke from burning Poison Ivy you could experience difficulty breathing

If you find yourself with difficulty breathing, your skin is continuing to swell, blisters are oozing, the rash affects your eyes, mouth or genitals, you run a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or the rash is widespread and not going away within a few weeks, you will want to see a doctor.

Now that you know what poison ivy is, how you get it, what to do if you come in contact with it, and when to see a doctor, what about how to prevent yourself from getting the poison ivy rash.

Some things you can do to prevent getting the rash are:

  • Avoid contact with the plant.
  • Know what poison ivy looks like and be aware of your surroundings especially if you are camping, hiking, or have a wooded backyard.
  • You can wear protective clothing but keep in mind that clothing is not enough. That’s a start but you need to get the clothing off and washed without touching the area on the clothing that came into contact with the plant.
  • If you are working around an area with poison ivy, make sure you are very careful with where you put your tools down. Remember the oils are very sticky and can attach to almost anything.
  • Spray poison ivy killer on the area with the plants.
  • If you have pets, make sure you keep them away from the poison ivy leaves or when you pet them you will get more than a loving tail wag.
  • Lastly, if you know you will be working or camping around an area where the poison ivy plant is present, you can apply a protective barrier cream such as the one pictured below.

One last thing I should mention is that if you come in contact with poison ivy and are going to get a rash, you should see that rash develop within 12 to 48 hours after contact.

So remember, while you are out RV’ing, tenting, or in a cabin, be aware of what vegetation surrounds your site and take the steps necessary so you and your family can enjoy yourselves.

If you have any questions, comments, or your own poison ivy stories, feel free to leave them below.

Good Sam Club

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