The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 27, 2001

Features

GREEN CORNER Leaves of Three, Let It Be

Poison ivy is a major hazard in a rural town like Carlisle. Roadsides, stone walls, fields, and edges of woods are prime locations for this toxic plant. Rubbing against it results in a red, raised, blistered rash within 12-72 hours, lasting 1-4 weeks. About 85 percent of us are susceptible, often not until later in life.

What it is

Poison ivy has three pointed leaves, smooth or toothed, with a larger middle leaf whose length is normally between 4 and 14 inches. The plant is reddish in the spring, glossy green in the summer, and red, orange, or yellow in the fall. It grows as a vine on trees or on the ground, where it may form a bush.

Rash Treatment

The toxic urushiol oil is so strong that one-billionth of a gram can cause a rash. It bonds with skin in 15 minutes, so prompt rinsing with lots of cold water is the best prevention. In the woods, jewelweed can be rubbed on the affected skin. The fresh oil can spread from one part of the body to another by touch, so wash clothes and other exposed gear to prevent re-exposure. Once a rash erupts, rubbing it will not spread it. To reduce severe itching, take a long shower using extremely hot water. Oral antihistamines may help, and drying agents like calamine lotion are soothing and can speed healing. Topical anesthetics such as menthol, benzocaine, and pramoxine can temporarily numb the pain. The rash can be treated with hydrocortisone creams or sprays four times a day, for swelling and itching.

Plant Control

Never burn poison ivy smoke carries the toxic oils. Small plants can be grasped through a plastic bag, pulled up by the roots, and put directly into the bag by turning the bag inside out. Heavy vines can be cut in the winter. Mulch hay can be applied over the leaves to kill them. Vines can be mown with a brush hog, and goats or sheep will safely eat the vines (sheep will be used to control our poison ivy on Towle Field). The most effective chemical controls are Roundup spray and Brush-b-Gon paint.


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