What you need to know about poison ivy - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

What you need to know about poison ivy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - With warm weather already here, you may need a brush up on what plants could potentially harm you. 

Poison ivy. You can find it just about anywhere in the Heartland. It's important for children and adults to understand what it looks like and what to do if you have come in contact with the three-leafed plant. 

Poison ivy has three leaves and is a member of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae). The three leaves are pointed and have a distinct notch on the lower half of the leaf. Poison ivy can be a woody shrub that can grow up to about six feet tall or a vine that can climb 40 feet up a tree. 

"It's very common in this area and if you see a three-leafed plant you think might be poison ivy, you're best bet is to leave it alone," said A.J. Hendershott, Outreach and Education Supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Like the old saying goes, "Leaves of three, leave them be." 

However, there are still other plants with three leaves that are ok to touch, such as strawberries and green beans. 

You can get poison ivy a couple ways. The most common way is direct contact with the plant itself. The urushiol oil from the plant can touch your skin which can develop a rash and can spread. This oil can also get on your clothes which can later spread to a person after touching the clothing. 

Another way to get poison ivy is from smoke. If the plant is burned, soot and smoke can deliver particles of the oil that can irritate eyes, nose and throat. It is not recommended to burn poison ivy. 

If after coming in contact, there is something you can do to help prevent a rash. Hendershott says to wash your hands and clothes as soon as possible. This will help get rid of the oil which in turn won't give you a rash. However, it is recommended to not wait to wash because the oil can penetrate the skin in as quick as a matter of minutes. 

Poison ivy can grow just about anywhere. Birds have been known to spread berries and seeds from the plant and drop them in different locations. Poison ivy is not only prevalent in the summer months but can a person can be exposed to it in all seasons.

Although poison ivy is common in the Heartland, it's not the only poisonous plant. Poison oak has also been found in Scott, Carter, Shannon and Mississippi counties in sandy or rocky areas. That plant can also give you a bad rash similar to poison ivy. Poison sumac is also a poisonous leafy plant but isn't usually found in the Heartland. 

If after a rash has developed, treatment is needed to help alleviate irritation. Use a cool, wet compress for a mild rash. For more irritating rashes, several over-the-counter topical corticosteroid remedies are available. If you have extreme itching, it's best to seek medical attention. 

For more information on poison ivy, oak, and sumac, you can visit http://poisonivy.aesir.com. 

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