I’ve had my share of run ins with poison ivy and poison sumac. Years ago I got a free load of mulch from the dump. Yep, you know where I’m going… In less than 24 hours- 80 percent of my body was affected with blisters and rash. It only takes one experience to teach you a powerful lesson. I’ll never get mulch from the dump again! Here are some other things we need to know about these poisonous plants.
1. Learn how to identify poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak.
The poisonous sumac is a woody shrub or small tree growing up to 20 feet tall.
The stems of the leaflets are always red. Yellow-green flowers are present during June and July. The small white or grey berries are visible in September.
Non-poisonous sumac has red berries. Poison Sumac differs from other sumacs in having shorter leaves, fewer leaflets, and smooth leaf edges.
2. How long does poison ivy, sumac, and oak stay active? 1-5 years. Anywhere the plant has touched, if it is not washed- is potentially active with urushiol oil.
3. Do NOT burn poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak in a brush pile. The poison plant oil called urushiol can cause a very severe allergic reaction. The heavy particles of the smoke contain urushiol, which will fall down in soot form and can be inhaled. The lungs can swell, cause coughing, extreme irritation, and swelling in the throat. It can also cause blisters, swell face, and eyes shut.
This is a serious hazard. I’ve seen pictures of babies with their eyes swollen shut from being exposed to the poisonous oils released into the air through bonfire.
4. Wash poison oil off ASAP. I am highly allergic to it and once a month I mow through areas infested with it. I mow for 30 mins wearing jeans, boots, long sleeve shirt and glasses. I go inside take clothes off and put directly into washing machine. Next, I head to shower and wash myself well with soap and water. This has prevented almost all reactions for me personally. Sometimes if I have a large area to mow I’ll come in and change clothes and wash every 1/2 hour. I don’t let my clothes hit the floor.
5. Discard poisonous branches and leaves. Wear long sleeves, pants, boots, gloves and goggles. Chop branches and put in garbage bags and put into trash.
6. How to keep poison ivy, poison sumac and poison ivy from spreading. Keep mowed by tractor, cows, goats and sheep. Pour heavy amounts of salt on area after it is mowed down. It will kill everything around it, so be careful where you pour.
7. Poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak are not poison dormant in the winter. It is not safe to clear poison areas in the winter. It is just as active in the winter as summer.
8. If your cow or goat eat poison ivy and you drink the milk it does not give you immunity to the toxins. Scientist say that is folklore. 90 percent of people are allergic on some level, the others aren’t.
9. Poison ivy blisters are not contagious. You must come in contact with the urushiol oil to get it. If you haven’t washed clothes, boots, etc that were touched by it you’ll get it. Not by touching blisters but touching the oil.
10. Treatment if infected with poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison sumac: 1. Bathes with baking soda and epsom salt are effective. 2. Put a teaspoon of baking soda on wet gauze, cover affected area. 3. Banana peel and cucumber soothe the itch. 4. Pour whey onto gauze or folded absorbent paper towel and cover affected area. Secure in place. The whey treatment helps us more than other treatment.