Poison Ivy Part 2

Last week we discussed the basics of Poison Ivy and its identification. Here is what happens when you run into this problematic plant:

Here is what happens:

  • Urushiol, which is an oleoresin (lacquer) oozes from the broken leaf and stems, causing the characteristic black dots which is oxidized urushiol (due to the enzyme laccase found in the oleoresin) and can be found on plant leaves within 10 minutes of its exposure to oxygen. Urushiol can be transmitted to the patient by contact with the plant, or pets, tools, gloves, shoes and clothing for months. Washing clothes in regular laundry detergent will decontaminate fabrics. Poison Ivy should NEVER be burned, as it vaporizes the oil, causing lung damage. The allergic reactions can occur years after the plant dies.
  • The characteristic wheals and blisters of poison ivy contain serum, and NOT the urushiol. Poison ivy and other poison plant rashes can't be spread from person to person. But it is possible to pick up the rash from plant oil that may have stuck to clothing, pets, garden tools, and other items that have come in contact with these plants.

When contacted:

When a patient is exposed to a poisonous plant, like poison ivy, oak or sumac:

  • Immediately rinse skin with rubbing alcohol, poison plant wash, or degreasing soap (such as dishwashing soap) or detergent, and lots of water. It is best to wash urushiol from skin within ten minutes of exposure to prevent absorption and spreading.
    • About 50% of urushiol can be washed off within 10 minutes
    • Only 10% can be washed off after 30 minutes
    • After one hour, none of the urushiol can be washed off.
    • I take a half bar of Fels Naphtha soap (old fashioned washboard soap) a in nylon stocking, and carries it backpacking or tie it to a canoe seat. The soap is always handy, and never gets soggy.
  • Rinse frequently so that wash solutions do not dry on the skin and further spread the urushiol.
  • Scrub under nails with a brush.
  • Wash exposed clothing separately in hot water with detergent.
  • After use, clean tools with rubbing alcohol or soap and lots of water. Urushiol can remain active on the surface of objects for up to 5 years. Wear disposable gloves during this process.