The best and most effective way to ensure poison ivy protection is to completely avoid the plant in the first place. Of course this is not always a viable option, so there are other methods for you to try such as knowing what exactly to look out for, and applying barrier creams and lotions before going outdoors where poison ivy may be rife. However, it must be said that these barrier creams are not fool-proof, and should not be your one and only preventative measure.
Identifying Poison Ivy
Possibly the most important aspect in protecting yourself from this plant’s toxic sap is being able to recognize the plant, and therefore, avoid it. Poison ivy is, in actual fact, not as easy to identify as one would hope, as it can grow in the form of a shrub or a climbing vine, and all plants do not look the same. As a woody vine, it will have a reddish, hairy, rope-like appearance, and can wrap itself around fences, gates, or climb up the trunks of other plants and trees. However, one rule that you can stick to is “Leaves of three, let it be.” This refers to the plant’s leaves, which are always in clusters of three. The leaves will usually also appear a bit glossier or shinier than those of other plants.
If you see small white flowers on the plant, then this could be a further indication that the plant in question is poison ivy. However, do not bank on this as the main identifying feature, as the flowers will only bloom around May or June.
If you see the plant growing in your garden or very close to your home, poison ivy removal is essential, especially if you have small children around who could easily be contaminated.
Where You Will Encounter Poison Ivy
Poison ivy can grow in almost any environment, although you will not find it in desert or arid conditions. It is widespread in North America, especially New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern United States. Areas to avoid, and where the chances of poison ivy growth are high include:
- Swampy or marshy areas
- Places that are overgrown or crowded with plant life
Poison ivy also grows on edges; as in the edge of a field, forest, or road. So if you are in the outdoors, look out for the plant in these areas especially.
Another thing to be careful of if you are doing some exploring in nature is water. If the plant in its vine form is hanging into a pond or stream, there is a possibility that the water could be contaminated by the urushiol, and you could still be affected if you decide to swim in the water.
Poison Ivy Protection Tips
Cover Yourself Up
It is very important that if you are entering an area where poison ivy is prevalent that you wear the appropriate clothing and cover your body properly. If you do not you may end up with the poison ivy rash that you are so keen to avoid. This is a very obvious but also a very important aspect of poison ivy protection.
At the very least you should wear the following:
- Long pants
- A long-sleeved shirt
Protection against poison ivy doesn’t stop there. Remember that poison ivy leaves behind a resin that sticks to your clothes. So if you touch your clothes when you get home without the proper precautions in place you may get poison ivy poisoning anyway. To avoid this you will need to be very careful when removing your clothes. Try to keep the gloves on until the last minutes and try not to touch the outside of your clothes in the process. Wash your clothes immediately once you have gotten home and take a shower yourself just in case. Hose down the shoes you were wearing and rinse them with soap and water so that you can get rid of the resin.
Apply Barrier Creams
There are barrier creams that you can apply as a sort of protection against poison ivy when you think that there is chance that you will come into contact with the plant. These can usually be bought over the counter. The cream needs to be applied less than one hour before you expect to be exposed to the plant. It also needs to be applied in a thick and complete layer all over your skin. Please note that these barrier creams only delay the penetration of the urushiol. It is essential that you wash your skin and all of the cream off as soon as possible after you have had contact with the poison ivy plant. Wait no more than four hours to do this or else the urushiol may be absorbed by your skin and cause you to develop the poison ivy rash. If you’re going to be out and about in poison ivy infested areas for a long time you will need to take the barrier cream with you as it needs to be re-applied every four hours in order to continue being effective. If you are planning a strenuous hike or if you are going out on a hot day, your perspiration may also cause the cream to rub off quicker, so make sure that you dry the skin and reapply regularly. Note that this is not always an effective way of protection yourself against poison ivy, but it certainly could help.
Some of these creams and lotions include:
- Ivy Block. This contains bentoquatam, which absorbs the urushiol and could lessen or even prevent symptoms from arising.
- Stokoguard Outdoor Cream
- Hollister Moisture Barrier
- Hydropel Moisture Barrier will bind with the oils from the poison ivy, so that when the cream is washed off, so is the urushiol.
As you can see there is no real guaranteed method of avoiding the urushiol in poison ivy that gives you the rash and the blisters, but the above-mentioned points should help you to take all of the precautions that you can to avoid it. If you have had poison ivy before then I do not need to tell you how bad the symptoms are and how important poison ivy protection really is. If you have not had it before, be warned. You do not want to take any risks with this plant. It is better to protect yourself adequately right from the start.