Busting Poison Ivy myths

By: Rick Springer Email
By: Rick Springer Email

SHERMAN, TX - Many Texomans are familiar with the ever unpleasant Poison Ivy rash. But, there are a lot of people don't even know what the plant looks like. And that could make the difference between misery and comfort.

"You can find poison ivy just about anywhere," said Grayson County College biology instructor Ramona Popplewell.

In fact, all I had to do is walk twenty yards from the backdoor of our studio and there it was. Poison Ivy, the unassuming menace.

"Poison ivy is a vine that is in the almond family." said Popplewell

But you can't get almonds from this vine, just a nasty, itchy rash.

"A lot of time it looks it looks like more like a water blister or blistering rash," said dermatology nurse practitioner Tami Dobs. "A lot of the times people believe they spread it by itching themselves on the arm where it starts."

But that couldn't be further from the truth. The rash doesn't spread at all. It only develops on skin that comes into direct contact with the vine's poisonous oil.

"It develops differently at different times on different parts of the body." Dobs said. "So, that's why you think you spread it."

And that's not the only Poison Ivy myth. The rash is not contagious, but you can give it to someone if you have the oil on your hands and touch their skin. And no one is immune, only less allergic. Even if you kill the vine, it's still poisonous. The oil's so potent, it can last up to seven years on any surface if not removed or washed away. And you should never burn Poison Ivy. But the most common myth is that it looks like it's five leaved cousin Virginia Creeper. But Virginia Creeper is not poisonous.

"Probably the easiest way to keep from getting the itchy rash like I did last week while doing yard work is simple. Do your homework. Learn what the plant looks like, and avoid contact."

"If you've never seen it get on the internet and google it and there will be thousands of websites that will give you pictures to look at," said Popplewell.

For more information on prevention and treatment of Poison Ivy you can log on to the Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center website Http://poisonivy.aesir.com/view/comments.html


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  • by Anonymous on May 28, 2011 at 07:56 AM
    go away in the winter? it doesn't go away for like 2 or 3 years after the plant dies ! seriously! i like to give it to my kids in a salad mix when they've been particularly awful. what comes around goes around, eh....
  • by immune on May 26, 2011 at 03:54 PM
    Wow, no one is immune??? I have picked the stuff with bare hands all my life, to keep it away from other who where severely allregic, and never one blister! I have rode trails where the next day everyone was covered but me! I must be the one and only with this immunity :)
  • by anon on May 26, 2011 at 01:26 PM
    you can heal the rash quick using hydrogen peroxide on the area till its gone.
  • by Gene Location: Sumner on May 26, 2011 at 12:49 PM
    The educator that you referenced got her thoughts tangled apparently. Poison ivy is not in the same family as almonds, it is in the same family as cashews, mangoes and pistachios - Anacardiaceae. Almonds are in the rose family and are of the same genus as Peaches, plums, etc....
  • by Bud Location: Denison on May 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM
    Wasn't ever bothered by it until I cleaned a place down on the river.Most clearing took place in the winter when foliage is down but this stuff is very much active,and as stated don't burn if you do get upwind and avoid the smoke.
  • by Ed Location: Pottsboro on May 26, 2011 at 09:08 AM
    Old Boy Scout phrase: "Leaves in Three, Flee."
  • by question on May 25, 2011 at 05:46 PM
    is the vine poisonous as well or just the actual leaf?
    • reply
      by Katherine on May 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM in reply to question
      The vine, root, any part of the plant will affect the body. And it doesn't go away in the winter.
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